Charles Dwyer, better known as Gene, was awarded the Knight of the Legion of Honor medal Saturday. It's France's way of saying thanks to him and other surviving American soldiers who fought to liberate the country from Hitler during World War II.
Dwyer had just turned 21 when his Second Infantry Division got to Normandy two days after D-Day.
"There were dead Germans. Dead Americans. Horses. And guns all over the place," Dwyer says.
He was a radio operator. An unsung hero who put his life in danger to keep his fellow soldiers alive and to free western Europe.
"...really we can't appreciate today what that world was like and what that takes to get through," says Dwyer's grandson Bryan Kirchoff.
Kirchoff is a veteran of the War in Iraq.
"The time I had on my deployment was probably cake compared to what he went through. And I can tell you it's a very imposing thing when you know there's somebody out there that wants to take your life."
Dwyer's daughter sent documentation to France, including his diary from the war for two years. Nearly 70 years after serving, this medal from the French government says thanks. Holocaust survivor Ben Fainer presented the medal.
"That was a joy to my heart," Fainer says.
His family was taken to concentration camps when he was nine.
"I lived through horror and I came out alive, and I thank God for that."
After time in six camps, he was freed when he was 15.
"That day was like the Heavens dropped on my knee," Fainer recalls.
We asked Dwyer how cool it was to get this medal.
"It must be cool because the french people say it's cool. But I don't know. It's so long ago."
A long time ago, but still worthy of recognition.