A 92-year-old World War II veteran from Osseo is officially a French hero nearly 70 years after he helped liberate the country from Nazi Germany, the Star Tribune reports.
Benny Arechiga was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor Sunday at the Coon Rapids VFW. The French government presents the medals to a select group of U.S. military veterans who risked their lives fighting in at least of one of three campaigns in the Liberation of France: Normandy, Provence/southern France or northern France during World War II.
Among the people honoring Arechiga at the ceremony was U.S. Sen. Al Franken, who called the veteran "part of the generation that literally saved the world."
"You helped liberate Europe and France from the grip of the Nazis," Franken told Arechiga at the ceremony. "You liberated France from the greatest enemy they or we have ever faced. You are a hero to me."
According to Roger Arechiga, his brother, Benny Arechiga not only drove a Sherman tank, but was a machine-gunner who fought in the Battle of the Bulge in the U.S. Army’s 493rd Field Artillery Battalion under the command of Gen. George Patton in 1944.
WCCO Radio says Franken pinned the medal on Benny Arechiga during the ceremony, and presented the veteran with an American flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol in his honor. More than 100 of Arechiga's family members reportedly attended the ceremony.
“It’s something that I do every once in a while and I’m so honored to do it,” Franken told the station after the ceremony.
WCCO Radio says Arechiga was born in El Paso, Texas, and lost his mother to tuberculosis as a young child. After that, he moved with his family to Fargo, North Dakota, to work in the sugar beet fields.
Arechiga did not speak during the ceremony.