Hometown Hero Honored by French Government

By Melanie Chapman | mchapman@kolr10.com

Published 07/02 2014 08:28PM

Updated 07/02 2014 09:18PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- A World War II veteran from Springfield received the highest honor from the French government, the Legion of Honor Medal.  Jack Hamlin traveled to France on the 70th anniversary of D-Day to accept this honor.

The Normandy American Cemetery above Omaha Beach is a reminder of the sacrifices thousands made during World War II.  On June 6, the anniversary of D-Day was a chance to say thank you in person to many of the veterans. 

Veteran Jack Hamlin said, "I went to represent the ones who are buried there or are buried back home.  They were never found, lost in the water, something happend to them, they were blown up, they didn't return.  I got to return."  

Hamlin, now 93 years old, was on one of 60 small vessels sent in to rescue the wounded and drowning at Omaha Beach.  He and his shipmates saved 1,438 soldiers and one female nurse.  For his service, Hamlin recieved the highest honor from French governmnent.

Hamlin visited Normandy 20 years ago on the 50th anniversay of D-Day, but this recent trip was life changing.

"This time I got to meet the French people and how they appreciate what we did.  We liberated them from the evils of Hitler.  We were grabbed, we were taken here we were just picked up, VIP treatment.  We couldn't go anywhere without being stopped on the street," Hamlin said.

Surrounded by world leaders, dignitaries and military personnel, yet it was Hamlin and other veterans in the spotlight. 

"It's something that I'll never forget.  Really, you can't, and I'm so sorry that more veterans could not attend.  Well, you have to stop and think.  They are all in their late 80's.  I'm 93.  I'll never go back again," Hamlin said.

Hamlin has lived an amazing life: pro-baseball player, champion golfer, successful businessman, husband and father.  This honor ranks up there with any other achievement.

"It was quite an honor, it really was!  I'm very, very proud," Hamlin said. 

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