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A grateful France thanks, honors WWII veterans

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From left, James Baker, Leo DeFilippo, and Michael Maglio received the Legion of Honor Award, France’s highest honor, on Thursday. Presenting the awards at the Chelsea Soldiers Home, was Counsul General of France Valery Freland.
From left, James Baker, Leo DeFilippo, and Michael Maglio received the Legion of Honor Award, France’s highest honor, on Thursday. Presenting the awards at the Chelsea Soldiers Home, was Counsul General of France Valery Freland.(Pat Greenhouse)

Three local World War II veterans were awarded France's highest honor on Thursday for their role in campaigns that helped liberate the nation and change the course of history.

James Baker, 91, Leo De Filippo, 96, and Michael Maglio, 95, received the Legion of Honor from the Consulate General of France in Boston at the Chelsea Soldiers Home, where they live.

"Their struggle and efforts occurred at an extremely hard and dark time in both French and European history," said Valéry Freland, the French consul general, in his remarks. "By celebrating their courage this morning, both the French Republic and the people of France remember the American soldiers who helped them recover their freedom, their pride, and their honor."

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The veterans were nominated to the Legion of Honor with the rank of Chevalier, Freland said.

All three of the men joined the US Army between 1941 and 1942, Freland said.

Private First Class Baker worked as a heavy truck driver in southern France, Private First Class De Filippo was a power plant operator in northern France and surrounding countries, and Maglio was a cook for campaigns across Central Europe, Freland said.

About 60 people — including friends, family, and the secretary of the state Department of Veteran Services — filled the small room at the home for the ceremony, Freland said.

"It was, as it always is, a very moving ceremony," Freland said in an interview after the event.

"For French people, they are our heroes."


Mina Corpuz can be reached at mina.corpuz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @mlcorpuz.