Three peninsula veterans receive Normandy medal

Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Three area veterans received a special honor Memorial Day for their participation in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, in World War II.

Daniel T. Furlong of Kenai, Clayton Helgeson of Soldotna and Lenard Reel of Homer were invited to a ceremony at the American Legion Post 1 in Anchorage on Memorial Day to receive the Normandy Medal of the Jubilee of Liberty from Sen. Ted Stevens.

The medal is only available to veterans who participated in the Normandy campaign. It was minted at the request of the regional council of Normandy and the governor of Normandy. Many veterans received the medal in 1994, when they returned to France for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day campaign. Furlong, Helgeson and Reel did not attend the anniversary so they did not receive the medal.

Stevens procured the medals and presented them to about 10 Alaska veterans who did not receive them in 1994.

"I'm honored to recognize these Alaska veterans who were unable to attend the anniversary ceremony in France by presenting them with their medals and a special certificate on Memorial Day," Stevens stated in a press release about the ceremony.

Helgeson, 78, said he was proud and surprised to receive the medal.

"I was shocked," he said. "It was something I didn't think would ever happen. We didn't get to go back (to Normandy) so I didn't think we would get the medals. Thanks to Sen. Stevens, he thought that some of us who couldn't make it at that time needed that award, too. That is pretty neat that he's doing this."

Helgeson served as a Technician 4th grade in the U.S. Army's 736th Tank Battalion. He is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and said he would miss the Memorial Day celebration in Kenai, but was excited to attend the Anchorage ceremony and receive his medal.

Furlong, 79, served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army's 508th Parachute, 82nd Airborne Division and is also a member of the VFW.

Furlong said it was wonderful to receive the medal, but that Memorial Day is more for honoring the soldiers who died in combat.

"I think Memorial Day is one of the best, honorable days that we can have," he said.

"The people we left over there need to be remembered. Those are the ones who really made the sacrifice. The ones who came home were the lucky ones."

Reel, 79, served as a Technical Sergeant in the U.S. Army's 146th Combat Engineering unit.

He is a member of the Anchor Point VFW.

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