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Iowa WWII veteran awarded French medal for Christmas

The medal was awarded to 96-year-old Gail Ferrell as part of the crew that the April 1945 action report says bombed a German sub base in Royan, France.

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — A special gift delivered on this Christmas Eve to a deserving veteran. It’s a thank you for risking his life 76 years ago.

Mission accomplished for veteran’s advocate Mark Jensen who believed a B-17 tail gunner deserved recognition for action in World War II.

Awarded to 96-year-old Gail Ferrell as part of the crew that the April 1945 action report says bombed a German sub base in Royan, France.

“And you do realize you are a hero even though you won’t say those words yourself,” Jensen said.

“Oh it’s a great honor because I’m carrying it for those who didn’t make it,” Ferrell said.

A voluntary quarantine prohibits visitors so a staff member at Midlands Living Center takes the medal to Gail’s room. There a health care professional pins the French Legion of Honor on the humble hero.

“For those who lived and died in the missions over Germany and I was going with them and I survived that’s all,” Gail said.

Still loyal to military protocols, Gail insists the French medal be pinned on the left side.

The French Legion of Honor comes with an order and must be presented by a French official. But with COVID-19, who knows when that might happen.

So Jensen thought it important that the aging veteran get the medal now.

Gail’s medal is for a successful air mission but like a ground crew leader, Jensen pushed all the paperwork through the French consolute.

“Viva le France,” Gail said.

Jensen worked with the French consulate to obtain Legion of Honor medals for five World War II veterans who saw action there. Four of them are still living.