It's safe to say that there aren't too many residents of Mountain View who belong to the French Legion of Honor. Alfonso Barreras, an 80-year-old Mountain View resident, is the latest to receive the honor.
Barreras, 90, was born in Arizona and said he was raised in a working family where they "followed the crops for work."
The April 21 induction ceremony of took place at the San Francisco home of Pauline Carmona, the Consulate General of France. Barreras was among eight World War II veterans who were honored.
"It was a very personal and heartfelt ceremony ... and after the ceremony, many photos and stories (were) exchanged. It was truly a wonderful day for the veterans and their families," said Barreras' niece, Mitzi Johnston.
The French Legion of Honor was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1892. The Order is the highest decoration in France and is distinguished by five degrees. Barreras was awarded the Chevalier or Knight distinction for his service in the United States Army.
"I was chosen for this award for my service during World War II, fighting on the front lines in France from the shores of Normandy, helping to liberate France from Germany," Barreras said.
Barreras was drafted into the war in 1943 at age 18 and served as a rifleman assigned to the 79th Infantry Division. While the war took place decades ago, he distinctly recalls the members of his squad and an incident that led him to be reported missing. During the war, one of his fellow soldiers had been seriously wounded and he accompanied the wounded man who was being transported to the medics.
"I was gone from my squad for a few days. My squad didn't know where I was, so I was reported missing. It took me two days to return to my squad," Barreras said. "All but myself and one other soldier from our original were squad were injured or killed."
Barreras received an honorable discharge on February 1, 1946.
After the war, Barreras said he initially had difficulties sleeping in a normal bed after sleeping on the ground for so long.
"I slept on the floor or with boards under my bed for some time before I could sleep in a soft comfortable bed," Barreras said.