LOVELAND, Colo. (KDVR) — It was a medal ceremony 78 years in the making.
In front of a crowd of family, friends and fellow veterans, Roger Smith of Loveland had the prestigious French Legion of Honour pinned to his lapel. The medal is the highest French decoration and one of the most famous medals in the world, and it was bestowed on Smith for his heroics in helping to liberate that country during World War II.
“So I raised my right hand on the 23rd of July, 1942,” Smith told FOX31.
A lifelong lover of aviation, Smith had a unique role in France’s liberation. He piloted a glider into German-occupied southern France on Aug. 15, 1944 – known as the “second D-Day.” It’s the day the Allies launched “Operation Dragoon.”
Their mission was to land infantry troops and secure Mediterranean port cities to help drive out the Nazis. The operation was a big success.
“I’ve been trying to bring out more recognition for what he and the other WWII veterans did,” Zach Cromley, Smith’s neighbor, told FOX31.
“It’s just something that sort of got overlooked, with the glider pilots especially. They were sort of a niche group of guys. So to see him finally get the award is extra special,” he added.
Smith went on to fly countless resupply and medevac missions in C-47s and stayed in the military. He even did a year of service in Korea before retiring from the Air Force as a major in 1970.
“Well, I love to fly,” Smith said.
Hero of the Month
It’s been a big year for Smith. Over the summer, he turned 100 years old. And he celebrated by climbing back into a glider and taking flight, nearly eight decades after he did it the first time.
Just one more accomplishment, after a lifetime filled with them. And we’re adding one more trophy to his mantle: We’re naming him the FOX31 Serving Those Who Serve Hero of the Month for November 2023. The honor is sponsored by Ford, Adaptive Adventures and the Leo Hill Charitable Trust.
To nominate a veteran or active duty service member for our Hero of the Month honors, visit the nomination page.