A Beaufort-area World War II veteran will add France's highest honor to an already impressive list of military decorations that includes four Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for valor.
Retired Army Col. Charles Stockell of Lady's Island will be among 17 World War II veterans from across the Southeast inducted this week by the French government into the National Order of the Legion of Honor during a ceremony in Atlanta. Stockell is one of six veterans from South Carolina being honored.
"I recognize how lucky I am to be getting a decoration of that sort," Stockell said. "I've been really impressed with the gratitude the French people have always shown the Americans who fought for that country. The Legion of Honor is known throughout the world as a very important recognition for a solider to receive."
The order was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to recognize military and civilian service to the French Republic and is the highest honor in France.
Stockell, 90, is being inducted for his service in Normandy in 1944 as an artillery spotter in the 2nd Infantry Division, which was the third division ashore on D-Day, according to the Consul General of France in Atlanta.
Even after being badly injured in a mortar attack two months later and spending three months in a British hospital, Stockell rejoined his men to fight in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, the largest land battle of World War II in which the United States participated.
Stockell said he was honored to join the late Col. Jimmie Leach of Beaufort as a "chevalier," or knight in the order. Leach was inducted in September 2010, nearly a year after dying of a heart attack.To be considered for the award, which is technically reserved for French citizens, a veteran must provide his military records and other documentation to prove he fought in France, said Claire Collobert, spokeswoman for the consul general.
Once the application is completed, it must be approved by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, she said.
U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Gen. David Petraeus and Queen Elizabeth II are among the order's foreign-born members.
Collobert said Stockell was especially deserving of her nation's highest honor.
"We believe that all veterans are entitled to receive the award, but Col. Stockell had such an impressive record ... and was directly involved in the liberation of several key French cities," Collobert said. "When he was injured in August 1944 and had to stay several months in the hospital, he still insisted on going back to combat and continued to fight for the liberation of France."
"His actions speak for themselves," she added. "He certainly didn't lack courage."
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/OnBaseBeaufort.