Fresno WWII veteran to be honored by French government for service

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A 92-year-old veteran is the only former soldier from Fresno who will be honored with the French Legion of Honor Tuesday. (KFSN)

A 92-year-old veteran is the only former soldier from Fresno who will be honored with the French Legion of Honor Tuesday. The French government is honoring American troops for their service during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II 70 years ago.

David Aguilar has a lot of stories to tell about his wartime experiences. They haven't always been easy for him to share. But he's very willing to talk about the service he will be honored for at the French Consulate in San Francisco.

70 years ago he was Private First Class Aguilar on the French and German battlegrounds. He was called up by the draft, but volunteered to man a bazooka.

"I laid flat on the ground, on the snow, and I used the snow for the round to skip, like it did when you was a kid and throw a rock in the lake or river," Aguilar said. "See my dad taught me how to throw a rock and it came to me."

What still come to him are his stories, his adventures overseas. A sword is one reminder. It belonged to a German SS officer. His name is engraved in the side. Aguilar kept it after the officer took his own life, rather than becoming a prisoner of war.

Aguilar also remembers the treacherous conditions of war, like the time he was nearly blown up. "I jumped that way, he jumped that way, right there where we were the artillery just blew the things apart," Aguilar said. "Otherwise I wouldn't be here."

He's grateful he survived. Aguilar married his wife Francis as a teenager. They were together for 60 years before she passed away. The two had three daughters.

This veteran now lives with one of his daughters as he faces a new battle, prostate cancer. But he won't let that slow him down.

Aguilar is proud of the recognition he'll receive Tuesday morning alongside nine other veterans.

"Well, it's kinda touchy," he said as he held back tears. "I feel proud because we helped another country. That's how I feel."

Aguilar also recently visited the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. last year on the Central Valley Honor Flight.

Related Topics:
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