French diplomat Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens travels to Boise to say “Merci!” to a 99-year-old American soldier


The dapper diplomat thanks a teary-eyed soldier in Boise

We’ve written about the popular new consul general at the French consulate in San Francisco – the charismatic Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens was, after all, an honored guest at the launch party for Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard. He is already a familiar figure on the Palo Alto tech scene. Now he’s a beloved figure farther afield, too. He went all the way to Idaho to say merci to a 99-year-old soldier who fought to liberate the French, and to bestow an honor he has already bestowed to a few at Stanford.

Hence on Friday, “technician fifth grade” Emil Reich was raised to the sublime rank of Chevalier in the Legion of Honour for his World War II service, where he served with the Antitank Gun Crewman 610 division. With hundreds of other servicemen, he sailed to Europe, and on June 6th, stormed the beaches in Normandy.

Reich continued on to fight in the Ardennes and Rhine region and participated in the famous Battle of the Bulge. Since he was fluent in German, he frequently traveled with higher ranking officers to speak to the citizens prior to troops approaching the towns in the Rhineland. He was wounded twice and spent time away from his division in a Paris hospital, returning to his unit after recovery.

After the end of World War II, he served as an interpreter at army camps housing German soldiers and returned in to the U.S. early in 1946.

“As a young man you left your home and family to fight and liberate not only France but the whole European continent,” said Lebrun-Damiens in an address. “Your courage and your bravery are the reason why the President of the French Republic decided to award you the highest French recognition.”

The ceremony took place on the second floor rotunda of the Idaho State Capitol building, attended by Reich’s family, as well as French Honorary Consul Mrs. Hortense Everett, Former French Honorary Consul Ms. Gabrielle Applequist, Congressman Russ Fulcher Representative Jake Ellis, Colonel Brit Vanshur Director of Staff of the Idaho National Guard, Marv Hagedorn Chief Administrator of Veteran Services, The Idaho National Guard Honor Guard, 25th Army Band, Chief of Staff of the Idaho National Guard COL Tom Rasmussen and Louis Hougaard Policy Advisor, Governor Brad Little.

The Reich family encourages any other WWII veterans who fought in France, or their family members, to reach out to the French embassy in San Francisco so they can also be recognized for their service. (Photos courtesy the French consulate)

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