A 102-year-old World War II veteran received the highest honor for military and civil accomplishments from the French government this week.
John Donovan, a Peabody native and professor emeritus of sociology at Boston College, was awarded France’s Legion of Honor medal Tuesday.
According to a statement from Boston College, Donovan served as a medic on the front lines of the war, marching through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Germany during his tour.
Christine Moynihan, Donovan’s daughter, said in the statement that her father was also at the Battle of the Bulge and helped liberate a concentration camp in the spring of 1945.
“We are so lucky — all of us — to have him with us now. He provides vivid context to those of us who were literally given the lives we have today by the ‘Greatest Generation,‘ ” Moynihan said.
Donovan was declared unfit to serve due to a heart condition when he first tried to enlist in the military, according to the statement. But instead of staying home, Donovan had a doctor say that he was healthy enough to fight.
He enlisted as a second lieutenant in the Medical Administrative Corps and was assigned to the 3rd Battalion of the 331st Infantry, 83rd Infantry Division.
“[This award] is a sign of France’s infinite gratitude and appreciation for your personal and precious contribution to the United States’ role in the liberation of our country during World War II,” Arnaud Mentré, consul general of France in Boston, said in the statement. “The people of France will never forget your courage and your devotion to the great cause of freedom.”
Donovan told WCVB at his award ceremony Tuesday that he was “shocked” to receive the honor.
“There are thousands of people in World War II who all did their part, just like me,” Donovan told WCVB. “I did my part, they did their part. I’m not sure my part was enough to get any kind of award, but I think I did well.”