MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – In August 1944, Private First Class Major Lee Wooten landed on Utah Beach in France in the middle of World War II. Nearly 8 decades later, he’s been awarded that country’s highest order, the French Legion of Honor.
A native of Cullman, Alabama, Wooten now lives with his family in Madison. On Friday, he celebrated his 105th birthday, a year after he was released from the hospital after beating COVID-19.
But nearly 80 years ago, Wooten was serving in the U.S. Army, as troops from America landed in France to help the Allies defeat the Axis Powers. Wooten, a railway mechanic for the Army, was responsible for repairing tanks, trucks, and hospital cars and getting them back on the front lines. As Wooten told a U.S. Air Corps pilot when asked what he did in France, he “cleaned up the mess you flyboys made”.
Now, 77 years after landing in France to serve his country, Wooten has been recognized as an international hero. On Friday, French Consul General to the American Southeast Vincent Hommeril presented Wooten with the Legion of Honor on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron.
“Mr. Wooten, you are a true hero,” Hommeril said. “Your example gives us inspiration for the future, and your legacy provides a moral compass for generations to come.”
The French Legion of Honor is typically reserved for French citizens, but it is sometimes also awarded to foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds.
But, this wasn’t just a medal a ceremony. It was a birthday party. And no birthday party is complete without a birthday cake. Wooten was treated to a special one, decorated with memorabilia from his time in the military as well as the French and American flags.
The organization Flags of Honor unveiled a special flag in tribute to Wooten’s service and the service of his brothers; one of them died in combat.
Nashville singer-songwriter also debuted a song that he and Major Wooten wrote together about Wooten’s time in the military.
News 19 would like to thank Private First Class Major Wooten and all of the members of our nation’s military for their service.