NORFOLK, Va. — Former Army Lt. Cary Jarvis, a World War II veteran who landed in the first wave on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day with the Virginia National Guard’s 111th Field Artillery Battalion, 29th Infantry Division, will be recognized by the French government and decorated as a Knight of Legion of Honor at 2 p.m. on Jan. 11, 2014, at the Guard readiness center in Norfolk, Va.
Retired French Consulate Nicole Yancey and Col. Denys Colomb, the French National Liaison Representative to Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, are scheduled to represent the French government for the presentation.
In addition to representatives from the French government, Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Soldiers from the Norfolk-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team will be on hand for the ceremony.
Jarvis, 92, was recently invited to the French Embassy in Washington to receive the award along with two dozen other World War II vets but could not attend for health reasons. His family reached out to the Virginia National Guard to organize an event to make the presentation.
“It is a distinct honor for us to be able to recognize one of our heroic D-Day veterans,” Williams said. “The incredible courage men like Cary Jarvis displayed serves as an inspiration to each one of us who wears a uniform. We owe them a debt that can never truly be repaid, but this recognition by the French government is a meaningful way for us to show just how much we appreciate what these men did to secure the freedom we enjoy today.”
Jarvis joined the Virginia National Guard in 1939 at the age of 17 and served as a field artillery forward observer, a job that placed him on the front lines with the infantry to guide artillery fire to enemy targets. He earned a battlefield commission to lieutenant during the war, as well as the Bronze Star Medal. He served on the front lines in Europe including the liberation of St. Lo and continued to fight until Germany surrendered in 1945. After the war, he left the service and worked for more than 20 years as a milk delivery driver for Birtcherd’s Dairy in Norfolk.
Yancey was awarded the French National Order of Merit and the French National Order of the Legion of Honor. A native of France, she joined the efforts to commemorate the America bicentennial and worked with Virginia governor’s staff to coordinate French participation. In 1987, she was appointed Honorary Consul for Hampton Roads and in 1992 her responsibilities were extended to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
According to the Embassy of France web site, the French Légion d’honneur, or Legion of Honor, is an order of distinction first established by Napoleon Bonaparte in May of 1802. It is the highest decoration bestowed in France and is divided into five categories: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand Croix (Grand Cross). The highest degree of the Order of the Legion of Honor is that of Grand Master, which is held by the sitting President of the Republic.
Foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds may receive a distinction from the Legion of Honor. American recipients include Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur, Admiral Michael Mullen, and even, as an institution, the United States Military Academy at West Point. Today there are approximately 93,000 Legion of Honor recipients. American veterans who risked their lives during World War II and who fought on French territory qualify to be decorated as Knights of the Legion of Honor. Veterans must have fought in one of the four main campaigns of the Liberation of France: Normandy, Provence, Ardennes, or Northern France.
The 111th Field Artillery Battalion was mobilized into active federal service for World War II in February 1941. During the war, the battalion earned four campaign ribbons in the European Theater of Operations, including the initial Normandy landings. They were in federal service for nearly five years while serving in the 29th Infantry Division. The battalion was designated as the initial artillery unit to land at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. During the war, the battalion suffered 39 battle deaths.
Today the 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment serves as the primary fire support unit for the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The battalion is headquartered in Norfolk with firing batteries in Sandston and Hampton. Elements of the battalion mobilized in January 2003 to support the Operation Noble Eagle homeland defense mission in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Since then, the battalion has provided Soldiers for numerous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as support domestic operations during hurricanes and snow storms in Virginia.
The 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery was originally constituted as the 1st Battalion Artillery, Virginia Volunteers and organized on November 8, 1877, from existing units to include the Norfolk Light Artillery Blues, now Battery B, and the First Company Richmond Howitzers, now Battery A.
Other Virginia National Guard World War II veterans who received the French Legion of Honor in recent years include Carl “Chubby” Proffitt, Robert Sales, Hubert Hobbs, John Kessler and Chuck Neighbor.
FOR THE NEWS MEDIA: The Virginia National Guard readiness center in Norfolk is located at 3777 East Virginia Beach Boulevard. Please arrive no later than 1:30 in order to allow enough time to set up before the ceremony begins. Please RSVP by 10 a.m. on Jan. 11 to Cotton Puryear at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-539-1451.
News coverage of Virginia National Guard veterans received the French Legion of Honor
Charlottesville recognizes Virginia Guard D-Day veteran
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — More than a hundred people filled the halls of American Legion Post 74 Feb. 20, 2012, to witness Rep. Robert Hurt present the French Legion of Honor to local war hero Carl “Chubby” Proffitt, 93, and to pay tribute to a man who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day with his National Guard unit in 1944. The French Embassy in Washington, D.C., originally awarded Proffitt the medal in a small ceremony Feb. 15, but the American Legion wanted to honor him in front of his friends and family.
Virginia veteran honored for his service on D-Day (The Lynchburg News & Advance) http://www.roanoke.com/news/virginia/virginia-veteran-honored-for-his-service-on-d-day/article_df71c03a-939a-11e3-a554-001a4bcf6878.html
Robert Sales landed at Normandy in the first wave of the D-Day offensive and fought his way across France before he was wounded and left partially blind. On Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, French President Francois Hollande made Sales a knight of the Legion of Honor, a ceremonial thank-you for helping liberate France from Nazi German occupation.
French Legion of Honor goes to 3 area veterans (Roanoke Times)
Once you know them, you always know them. That’s how the veterans of the 29th Infantry Division think of themselves. The men who served in the division and landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944, say they formed a lifelong bond with the men they fought alongside.
Tonight, June 5, 2013, three veterans of the 29th, former Staff Sgt. Mills Hubert Hobbs of Cloverdale and 1st Lt. John Kessler and Pfc. Chuck Neighbor, both of Roanoke, will step up to be honored for their service in World War II and be awarded the French Legion of Honor, class of Chevalier. Col. Jacques Aragones, French military attache from the embassy in Washington, D.C., will present them with one of the French military’s highest honors in the ceremony at the Sheraton Roanoke Hotel and Conference Center.
Additional news coverage on Cary Jarvis:
World War II vets from Va. Beach receive French honor (The Virginian-Pilot)
The Heroes Among Us (The Virginian-Pilot)
Ceremony honors soldiers who didn’t make it home from D-Day (The Virginian-Pilot) http://hamptonroads.com/2010/05/ceremony-honors-soldiers-who-didnt-make-it-home-dday
Bombs, bullets and bravery at Omaha Beach (The Virginian-Pilot)