Garden City Martin Huschka was in his early 20s when he found himself in France, caught up in what would become the Battle of the Bulge.
"You're right in the front lines and you don't have anybody but the enemy in front of you," Huschka, 88, said.
Recently, Huschka, of Garden City, heard another French accent when he was honored for his service in the Army's 35th Division's 161st Field Artillery Battalion with a medal during a ceremony at the VA Medical Center in Wichita.
He was presented with a French Legion of Honor medal from a French consulate during the ceremony. It is France's highest award and was started by Napoleon in 1802 to honor those who have served France, according to Huschka. He was in the Army from 1940 and 1945. Two other veterans also received medals at the ceremony.
"It means a lot to me that the French people appreciated the American soldiers for liberating them because many American soldiers sacrificed their lives. A lot of them didn't survive," he said.
Huschka said he didn't know why he received the award 62 years after his service in the U.S. Army and assumed it was because someone brought it up to the French government so the French government would approve it.
"We got the job done and they appreciated it," he said.
He received an invitation to the ceremony from Consul General of France Jean-Baptiste Main de Boissiere in Chicago.
He said he doesn't mind talking about the war and often visits schools to tell students about his experiences.
"Talking about it is better than having it bottled up inside," Huschka said.
He joined the National Guard on Oct. 23, 1939, when he was 21, and went to Camp Robinson in Little Rock, Ark. He was called into service on Dec. 23, 1940.
He spent 18 months fighting as a first lieutenant in Germany, which included taking part in the Battle of the Bulge, which started Dec. 16, 1944.
He said Germany's motive during the battle was to split the British and American lines, but Germany was unsuccessful with its mission.
He said soldiers faced many different hardships and had to deal without many necessities. They had to live with what the French could give them. Huschka said he remembers the weather was so cold at times that his food would freeze.
"Your life was always in danger. It was something you had to do and hope for the best," he said.
When he was a soldier, he said he learned to appreciate all the things he had before the war and it helped him become more disciplined.
"It was the first time I was away from my family. I remembered how good I had it when I was with my family," Huschka said.