French Consul General in San Francisco honors 10 veterans

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SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Ten American World War II veterans were awarded France's highest honor Tuesday morning; The Legion of Honor. It recognizes their service and sacrifice.

"Today we are celebrating 10 heroes," said French Consul General Pauline Carmona. "You saved France and Europe from hell. You saved people you didn't even know." One by one, Carmona pinned the medals on the men, ending each time with "merci."

"Seventy one years after the fact," 91-year old Lawson Sakai pointed out. "It's a long time, but it's nice! Sakai was one of the honorees. He tried to enlist in the military the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, and found out his new designation didn't allow it. 

"Which is the designation for enemy alien, so all of a sudden I was not an American anymore." Sakai was born in America, and grew up in Southern California. He would later join the 442nd, an all-Japanese descent regimen. "If we didn't win the war," Sakai explained, "we'd either be speaking German or Japanese today."

Time is running out to thank the men from what's been called "The Greatest Generation". 

"I'm the last one alive from my outfit," said 92-year-old Jake Larson. He joked, "The key to life is don't die!" Larson lied about his age to join the Army when he was 15 years old. 

"Born in 1922, take three (years) away, I was born in 1919," Larson explained. "He says you're in! Sign here." Larson was part of the D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy. "I feel bad for all the people I was with," he said. "And they're not here anymore."

Consul General Carmona said without the men's service to their country, the people of her country would not be free today.

"We all fought for same cause. Everybody had a different story to tell," Larson said with a tear in his eye. "And I'm glad I got a little chance to tell part of mine."