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Commander meets with D-Day vets

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Commander meets with D-Day vets
American Legion National Commander Jimmie L. Foster meets with D-Day veterans at a ceremony outside the Airborne Museum in Ste. Mere-Eglise Saturday, June 5. Photo by Jeff Stoffer

American Legion National Commander Jimmie L. Foster shook hands with  some of history's most revered combat veterans Saturday in Normandy,  France. Joined by American Legion Auxiliary National President Carlene Ashworth,  Foster sat at the head table of the annual Association Des Amis Des  Americains banquet in Ste. Mere-Eglise, the first town liberated in the U.S. Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

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"Normandy is hallowed ground," Foster said at the dinner. "The very name conjures reflections on heroism."

Foster and Ashworth visited Pegasus Bridge and Arromanches in the  British sector of the famous D-Day beach-head Saturday morning before  attending a ceremony at the Airborne Museum in Ste. Mere-Eglise where  nearly a dozen U.S. D-Day veterans were  honored.  Among those the commander and president met were Zane Schlemmer of  Hawaii, a D-Day paratrooper, Fred Morgan of Georgia, a medic in the  invasion, and James Hill of Tennessee, who was wounded on Omaha Beach.

The dinner in Ste. Mere-Eglise kicked off a weekend of World War II  commemorative events in northwestern France. Attending the dinner were  more than 500 active-duty men and women from various duty stations  including Air Force and Army Airborne personnel in Normandy to conduct  training jumps over the Merderet River Valley, where U.S. paratroopers  fought in some of the deadliest battles of World War II.

Also on the American Legion agenda in Normandy are wreath-laying  ceremonies June 6 at Pointe du Hoc and the Normandy American Cemetery at  Colleville Sur Mer, where more than 9,000 are laid to rest. "They were  heroes," Foster told those in attendance at the Saturday dinner. "And  they remain so because the people of France and America have not  forgotten them. May we never forget them."

On Saturday, Commander Foster also attended a ceremony in Chef du Pont  where the first annual Maureen Kennedy Awards were presented, in the  memory of well-known U.S. nutritionist Maureen Kennedy, who often visited Normandy to pay tribute to those who died fighting for freedom.

Receiving awards were Operation Democracy of Locust Valley, NY, a  non-profit organization which has recently been resurrected to provide relief items for war-torn communities in the Middle East, as it did for  Normandy after World War II. The Amis Veterans Americains, an  association in Ste. Mere-Eglise that supports U.S. veteran connections in the town, received the other Maureen Kennedy Award. Each came with a  $5,000 honorarium.

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