The room was silent, all eyes on Fernald Shaw.
Shaw, 90, had just been honored with the “Legion d’Honneur,” for his service in France during World War II.
Tears filled his eyes as he began to address the crowd.
“I just really appreciate all of you people being here,” Shaw said. “This award doesn’t just represent me. It is for all of the boys who didn’t come back here, and all who came back and have died since.”
Shaw is a resident at Columbia Ridge Senior Living in Washougal, where the ceremony took place.
The Legion of Honor award is bestowed only upon French nationals and foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds. Shaw was present in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, the largest land battle of World War II, in which the United States directly participated. He fought with the 12th Field Artillery Battalion in Normandy.
Jack Cowan, honorary consul of France in Washington, made the three hour drive to Washougal from Seattle to present Shaw with the award, the French equivalent of being knighted.
“We honor your sacrifice more than 70 years ago for the flag of freedom,” he said. “You are a great man in the history of France. Fern Shaw, you are my hero and 70 years later, I pay you tribute and express my undying gratitude.”
Darrell Johnson, the executive director of Columbia Ridge, attended the ceremony and thanked Shaw for his military service.
“I am pleased to share in the happiness of his day and the wonderful things that have taken place.”
Thursday, Feb. 19 was also designated “Fernald Shaw Day,” by Washougal Mayor Sean Guard.