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A Knight in New Orleans – France Honors WWII Veteran

March 1, 2024
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Despite the several decades since the end of World War II, the tendrils of that conflict are still reaching out into the 21st Century. Just recently in the UK, a woman trying to renovate her garden found an active German bomb, necessitating the evacuation of the neighborhood while the government removed the payload for safe detonation at sea. There are still some bright spots to be found, however, as New Orleans native Samuel Meyer received a very unique honor this February. 

Mr. Meyer owns a hat store on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, where he still works three days a week despite turning 100 years old later this year. Having worked at the shop since he was 14, Meyer has seen all manner of celebrities and historical figures come through the doors, and despite “forgetting every damn thing” never runs out of stories to tell. That includes stories of being an aircraft armorer, loading the bullets and bombs that pushed back the Nazis to their eventual defeat. Seemingly as spry and sharp as a man half his years, Sam can always be relied on to bend an ear or get you into just the right hat. 

The shop’s location and Meyer himself serve as one of those unique coincidences, as they both lie in the intersection between the history of the city and of the war itself, only a few blocks from the National WWII Museum

Drafted at 18, Meyer served in the 85th Fighter Squadron, 370th Fighter Group, Ninth Air Force, where he participated in the liberation of France from Nazi occupation… A fact that the French have not forgotten. And so it happens that at 1100 on February 27th, 2024, Samuel Meyer was bestowed with the rank of Knight (Chevalier) of the National Order of the Legion of Honor by Laurent Bili, the French Ambassador to the United States. 

The National Order of the Legion of Honor, established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, is France’s highest award for military and civil merit. Recognizing outstanding service to France, it has five degrees of distinction, with Knight being the entry level. Recipients are honored for their exemplary contributions to the nation.

Often as members of the Armed Services, we find it difficult to see the value of our sacrifices. The modern era has been filled with decades of conflict and loss, with success being more amorphous as time went on. Mr. Meyer and the honor bestowed on him by the people of France is more than just a man getting an award and a few speeches, it is a living testimony of the positive impact one man can have on the world, even under the worst circumstances.

Thank you for your wisdom, courage, and your service Sam, and if I make it back to that part of town the drinks are on me.

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