INDIANAPOLIS -- Three Clay County WW II veterans received "thank you certificates" from the French government on Saturday. The ceremony was held at the Indiana War Memorial in Indianapolis.
French Ambassador Dominique Decherf, from the French Consulate in Chicago, presented the awards to numerous veterans in front of a standing room only crowd.
The Clay County Veterans were Frederick A. Kellum, Kenneth Knust and Robert E. Rothrock. The men agreed that they definitely appreciated the award but thought it was about 57 years too late.
Frederick Kellum joined the Army in 1942 and was sent to France in the winter of 1944.
"We helped liberate France from the Germans," Kellum said.
When asked if he was ever injured in the war, Kellum answered "I was never shot. I had a small Bible that I always carried in my left shirt pocket. One time after a shelling, I looked down. A piece of shrapnel had hit there and cut right through the pocket but was stopped by the Bible. If it hadn't been for that Bible I wouldn't be sitting here talking.
"I think the award for the vets who helped liberate France was way overdue, but I'm proud to have been a part of the outfit that went over there. I'm proud to have been part of saving France."
The 85-year-old Kellum works 19 hours a week as a custodian at Pages Grocery Store. The widower has three children and five grandchildren. He's very excited that grandchild number six is due next year.
Kenneth Knust was an Army paratrooper during WW II who jumped 12 miles behind enemy lines on D-Day. Wounded at St. Lowe, France, he was shot in the jugular vein. "If a medic hadn't been near, I'd have bled to death," he said.
He came home on the St. Maheil, a hospital ship. According to Knust, on its way back to Europe to retrieve more wounded soldiers, the Maheil was sunk by the enemy. Knust felt lucky to be alive. However, he spent a year and a half in the hospital because of his injury.
The retired Knust has been the Perry Township Trustee for 20 years and was just recently re-elected. He and wife, Mary, have two children and four grandchildren.
Robert Rothrock was with the 255th Field Artillery in the Army when he was sent to France in 1944. "I was a certified truck and airplane mechanic," he said. We had a pilot who had been killed. So I was up there spotting Germans and we'd call back to the artillery by radio. They fired where we told them to fire to hit German targets."
Rothhrock appreciated the ceremony. He said they provided some very nice entertainment. Taps were played and a pre-teen boys choir sang patriotic songs. One of the speakers was U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar's daughter.
Although retired, Rothrock keeps busy. He helped his wife, Rita, get elected to the County Council from District 1 recently.
Bob and Rita have four children, eight grandchildren with one more on the way and nine great grandchildren.
The letter Rothrock and the other Veterans received from the French Consulate stated, "The Thank You America Certificate is from the French Government for your contribution to the liberation of France during WW II. France has never forgotten the sacrifice made by all the foreign allies and we wish to recognize your brave actions."
"It was a very nice certificate," Rothrock said. "I hated that the rest of the boys didn't get it because they've died. It was a little late coming."