Lorsey Sonnier, 88, will be appointed Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in a private ceremony Thursday in Leroy at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church Hall. It begins at 1 p.m.
“I am happy I am getting the medal,” said Sonnier. “I’m not sure I deserve it. There are a lot of other guys who should also get it.”
Chevalier is a French word for knight.
Sonnier joined the Army Air Force in 1943 and served until 1945. He was stationed with the Eighth Air Force, 91st Bomb Group 322nd Squadron flying in B-17s out of Cambridge, England.
As a tail gunner, he flew 206 hours of actual missions over Germany and France. On the B-17 plane, Ack-Ack Annie, he flew 143 missions before being retired.
“You’d pray and cuss at the same time,” said Sonnier. “I received the last sacraments 30 times. After every briefing, there would be a priest there, so I was ready to go.”
He survived each mission.
Sonnier never kept track of how many planes he shot down with his twin .50 caliber machine guns in the tail of the aircraft.
The French Ambassador Francois Deslattre, acting on behalf of President Nicolas Sarkozy, will present Sonnier with a medal bearing the image of King Henry IV for helping defend France from German forces during the war.
The National Order of the Legion of Honor was created by Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and represents the highest decoration awarded by France. The medal has been presented to 187,294 people in the past two centuries, about half of whom were inducted as members.