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LAKEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — Colorado native John Sekulich celebrated a milestone just days ago. He turned 106 years old.

Now a close friend is hoping to deliver a birthday gift nearly 80 years overdue: the French Legion of Honor award Sekulich earned for helping liberate that country in World War II.

“All those American GIs who served in France are eligible for this award,” his friend, Mitch Utterback, told FOX31.

Utterback and Sekulich’s wife, Charlotte, started the paperwork for the recognition nearly two years ago. But Utterback believes delays and bureaucracy have gotten in the way.

“John is so humble and quiet about his service, he really doesn’t care that we’re doing this,” Utterback said.

After D-Day, a fight and escape from death in Europe

The Legion of Honor is the highest French decoration and among the most famous awards in the world. Created by Napoleon Bonaparte, for two centuries it’s been bestowed on those who’ve demonstrated exemplary service to France.

FOX31 reached out to the Consulate General of France in Los Angeles, and a spokesperson said the process usually takes several months, but pandemic delays have slowed application approval. The spokesperson assured that Sekulich’s file is being reviewed and they are “hopeful to receive a positive response early next year.”

“This will be nice. This will be nice more so for the rest of us,” Utterback said.

Sekulich went ashore in France after D-Day and fought across Europe. He was nearly killed in Malmedy, Belgium, by German soldiers who executed dozens of American soldiers.

“When the Germans came in they lined up 80 guys and shot them all,” Sekulich told FOX31. “Two guys saved our lives. They run out in front of us and said don’t go down there … they’ve killed everybody,” he added.

Honor a Hero of the Month

It’s no French Legion of Honor, but FOX31 decided to give Sekulich the best birthday present we could come up with while he waits: we presented him with a plaque naming him the FOX31 Serving Those Who Serve Hero of the Month for December 2020. The honor is sponsored by Ford, Plumbline Services and the Leo Hill Charitable Trust.

To nominate a veteran, active-duty military member, military family member or volunteer for FOX31 Hero of the Month honors, visit the nomination page.