Nearly eight decades after fighting his way through North Africa, Italy, France and Germany, a retired Army soldier received one last award. Not an American military one, but a French one. This past week John Gojermac was given France’s highest award for his services during World War.
Gojmerac was honored at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Tonawanda, NY on Friday, Oct. 20. The ceremony included tributes to him from his family. Jérémie Robert, France’s consul general for New York, presented the 99-year-old veteran with the medal for the Knight of the Legion of Honor. The Legion of Honor, with five distinctions, is the highest award France can give to anyone, military or otherwise.
Gojmerac himself is not French, but he did fight to help liberate the country from Nazis. John Gojmerac was born in Slovenia and his family moved to the United States when he was 14. When he turned 18 he was drafted, although at the time he said he was not an American citizen. Gojmerac was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, 7th Infantry Regiment, and sent to North Africa as a replacement soldier.
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His older brother was drafted as well. The older Gojmerac did not see combat; he was a cook initially, before being sent to Hawaii for deployment in combat in the Pacific, but the war ended before he saw a battle.
A map laid out at the Frontiersmen VFW Post 7545, where he received the French award, shows the path Gojmerac took through Africa and Europe. Gojmerac’s daughter and grandson, the latter of whom lives in France, put his name forward to France for the Legion of Honor.
“I’m not accepting it for myself, but for the men that didn’t make it,” Gojmerac said when receiving the Legion of Honor award.
Although it has been more than 75 years since the end of the war, Gojmerac has a strong memory of his time in the Army. A decade ago he recounted several battles and experiences in the Buffalo News, including heavy fighting in Anzio, Italy. When in France, he worked in part as a telephone line repairman, laying and fixing cables to maintain communication between units. He also served as a scout. He earned a Silver Star for his work fixing a communications line several times during a battle, despite great personal risk to himself, even capturing a German saboteur in the middle of the firefight.
During his time with the 3rd Infantry Division, Gojmerac was wounded three times. The final time had him sent to a French hospital, where he remained until Germany surrendered.
“How I survived […] it makes me wonder sometimes,” Gojmerac said at the ceremony on Friday. said as he reflected on his experience in combat.
Gojmerac left the service at the end of the war, retiring as a tech corporal. During his time in the Army, he earned both a Bronze and Silver Star, a Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge, as well as four campaign ribbons and a Presidential Unit Citation. Now he can add the Legion of Honor to that.
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