Yukon-based WWII veteran, 98, awarded “France’s highest national order” – .

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Yukon-based WWII veteran, 98, awarded “France’s highest national order” – .


A Yukon-based WWII veteran received a prestigious French honor on Wednesday.
Retired Lance Corporal Joseph Novak, who served in the Canadian Army Service Corps during World War II, was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre national français de la Légion d’honneur. The order was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and is the highest decoration in France.

Nicolas Baudouin, Consul General of France in Vancouver, and Army General Benoît Puga, Grand Chancellor of the National Order of the Legion of Honor, presented the award on behalf of the President of France to the Legion of Whitehorse on Wednesday . Puga flew from France with his wife to do so.

“I appreciated him and I was more astonished than ever that he sent a general from France… to give me this medal”, declared Novak.

Army General Benoît Puga, Grand Chancellor of the National Order of the Legion of Honor, presented the award on behalf of the President of France to the Legion in Whitehorse on Wednesday. (Vincen Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

A press release describes the award as “France’s highest national order”, and says its aim is to show “the deep gratitude that France wishes to express” to Novak.

Novak said he felt more like a “keeper” of the medal than an owner, “on behalf of all veterans, from east to west, north to south, and especially for veterans of the indigenous nation who offered their services ”.

“Because thanks to them, most people are free. And we take advantage of this extended freedom. “

Novak is of Polish origin but was born in Montreal. He was only 16 when World War II broke out in 1939. He enlisted in the Canadian Army at the age of 20 and said he felt it was his’ duty to s ‘enlist’.

“I was so happy to live in Canada, a free country where you could go where you wanted, do what you wanted, say what you wanted. And I felt very bad for everyone [in] France, Belgium and Holland ”, he declared.

The price of the Legion of Honor. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

Novak was assigned to various roles while in the military.

He landed in Normandy, France on June 9, 1944, three days after D-Day, when thousands of American, British and Canadian troops deployed overwhelming force to liberate France from the German army. It is the largest maritime invasion in history and included 14,000 Canadian troops.

Novak was very close to the fighting. He then traveled through France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

After the war and returning to Canada, he spent 73 years married to his wife, living in Montreal most of that time, raising their two sons.

Novak moved to Whitehorse in 2006. Recently he ceded much of his estate to the Yukon Hospital Foundation and a scholarship fund at the University of the Yukon intended to benefit a multitude. of indigenous students pursuing journalism, “reminding us that reconciliation is a multigenerational process,” according to a short biography he submitted.

“The deepest gratitude”

Pugas: “We must pay tribute to these guys who went to defend us, in countries where they have never been, and [for] people they’ve never met. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

French officials said they are actively looking for veterans like Novak to honor. Puga said that over the past 15 years, France has awarded approximately 1,400 Canadian veterans who served in France during World War II.

“It is very important for the French government and in particular for the President of the French Republic, to express its deepest gratitude for what our comrades and comrades in the Canadian army have done for us,” said Puga.

“We must pay tribute to these guys who went to defend us, in countries where they have never been, and [for] people they’ve never met. “

Puga also said he was sending a positive message of “exemplary good behavior” to the younger generations.

“We never know what might happen in the near future. We don’t know what the security situation might be, ”he said.

‘We’re all in the 90s [in age]. We’re going to disappear one by one, ”Novak said of his fellow veterans. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

For Novak, the medal serves as a reminder of what happened during that war.

And, he said it’s important for veterans to remind others of Canada’s contributions, so that it’s never forgotten.

“We are all in the 90s [in age]. We will disappear one by one, ”he said. “And one day there will be no one to talk about it [remind] to the Canadian people what it means to be free.

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