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A 100-year-old Army vet who fought Nazis from a tank named for his wife was just knighted by France
Vernon Foster, a centenarian, World War II tank commander and retired Baltimore County dairy farmer is now a French knight.
Foster, 100, fought the Nazis in France and Germany during the war from his Sherman tank "Dottie," named after his wife.
He received the French Legion of Honor badge at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. Established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Legion of Honor is the highest French order of distinction for military and civil merits.
The country has previously honored other American veterans who helped liberate the country from Germany in World War II.
The honor was bestowed to Foster and four other American World War II veterans just shy of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when allied forces invaded France's northern beaches on June 6, 1944, in the Normandy region. The event will be attended by retired Sens. Robert Dole and John Warner and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Foster was 26 years old when he landed on the Normandy beaches a few months later on Nov. 20, 1944.
More than 70 years later, Foster is matter of fact about the recognition.
"I probably shouldn't say this, but I've been honored so many times, I have so many plaques I can't even count them," Foster said.
But, he added, he's "always glad to know that other people appreciate" the sacrifice he made during World War II and approaches most honoring ceremonies similarly.
"I guess I take it as it comes," he said, laughing.
An embassy spokeswoman said any American veteran who can prove they were in France during the war may be awarded the Legion of Honor.
Foster was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army commanding an M-4 Sherman tank. His unit fought intense battles in France's Alsace region on the German border before pushing deep into Germany, where they fought the Nazis in Herrlisheim and Ludwigshafen.
He commanded a crew that included himself, a gunner, a loader, a driver and an assistant driver.
Foster was a commander and platoon leader with the 2nd Platoon, Company A, 714th Tank Battalion. It was part of the fabled 12th Division that was attached briefly to the command of Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
Foster was hit by German artillery shell shrapnel. Medics pulled most of it out, but he still has a piece of shrapnel behind an eye.
Vernon Foster(U.S. Army/Johns Hopkins University)
Rick Scavetta, a journalist with the Aberdeen Proving Ground News, wrote about Foster's military history in 2016. He said interviewing Foster is like "seeing a piece of living history." He visited Foster at his home in Baltimore County, where he said Foster has a table with 200 letters that his wife, Dottie, wrote him in the war and another 200 that he wrote her.
Stephen Belkoff, who met Foster about 10 years ago through the Third Gunpowder Agricultural Club, noted the clarity of Foster's memory.
"His mind is incredibly sharp. He has attention to details — things people shouldn't remember," said Belkoff, a mechanical engineering professor at the Johns Hopkins University. "I'm a big fan of history, so the guy's a walking textbook. So I'd rather listen to him than read a book at the library."
Belkoff said Foster's recognition is well overdue.
"He was part of what's called the Ghost Division," Belkoff said. "A lot of what he and his group did didn't get officially recognized because they weren't supposed to exist."
Foster told The Baltimore Sun in a 2017 interview that going to war didn't feel like a sacrifice, but rather like a reflex.
"Most guys wanted to go because they had heard so much about what Hitler had done.
"It's like if you're going out to plant corn," the lifelong Parkton farmer said. "You just do it."
©2019 The Baltimore Sun. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
WATCH NEXT: World War II Newsreels Are The Best
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.
The U.S. Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon effort looked a lot more possible this week as the three competing weapons firms displayed their prototype 6.8mm rifles and automatic rifles at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.
Just two months ago, the Army selected General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort — one of the service's top modernization priorities to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.
Army officials, as well as the companies in competition, have been guarded about specific details, but the end result will equip combat squads with weapons that fire a specially designed 6.8mm projectile, capable of penetrating enemy body armor at ranges well beyond the current M855A1 5.56mm round.
There have previously been glimpses of weapons from two firms, but this year's AUSA was the first time all three competitors displayed their prototype weapons, which are distinctly different from one another.
The Air Force is investigating whether an airman smoked weed at a missile alert facility for nuclear Minuteman ICBMs
The Air Force is investigating reports that an airman consumed marijuana while assigned to one of the highly-sensitive missile alert facility (MAF) responsible for overseeing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.