A few weeks ago, Herbert Jackson "Jack" Sherertz was presented the French Legion of Honor medal by the French consulate.
Sherertz, 93, was honored for his part in protecting the coast of France during World War II.
On Sept. 7, he traveled with his son, Dr. Robert Sherertz, to Smyrna, Ga., where he was recognized at an American Legion Post 160 ceremony along with 16 other World War II veterans who also served in and around France.
With fading memory and ill health, Sherertz allowed his son to serve as his spokesman.
French Consulate General Pascal Le Deunff pinned the medal alongside Sherertz's Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and British Distinguished Service Cross. Those medals he received about 65 years ago.
Sherertz volunteered for the Navy in 1940 after graduating from Georgia Tech. He served for almost five years and was discharged just after the Japanese surrendered.
He never said much about his wartime experiences, declining to give details each time his family asked.
Robert Sherertz says it wasn't until a few years ago, after attending the 65th D-Day celebration at the U.S. National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., that his dad began to talk.
"Tears were running down his face during the celebration. On the way home I said, 'Would you mind if I asked you some questions?' He didn't stop talking for five hours. It all came pouring out," Sherertz said.
He discovered his dad was on the USS Nevada during the Pearl Harbor attack when the ship was disabled, and those who survived were reassigned. Jack Sherertz was reassigned to a PT Boat where he participated in the Battle of Midway.
On D-Day, he was second in command of Squadron 34 - a group of 12 PT Boats with 12-15 men on each boat. In July of 1944, he was named Commander of the Squadron.
The experiences he had in war reshuffled his life and changed his priorities when he got back home.
Says Robert Sherertz, "I found out that before the war, dad wanted to go to medical school, but he saw so much dying and death he couldn't do it. He waited to tell me that after I had graduated medical school, because he didn't want to influence my decision. At the end of the war, he was a successful commander and was offered a promotion. But he turned it down and took a civilian job as a textile engineer where he never had to manage anyone."
Robert Sherertz says he believes that after a career in textiles, raising three children, and living a quiet, decent life, his dad is finally experiencing closure.
He traveled with other veterans on a Flight of Honor to the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. He attended the very last PT Boat Reunion in Providence, R.I.
And, now, he has the French Legion of Honor medal - a final affirmation that what he, and millions of others endured decades ago, truly made a difference.