After receiving the highest award bestowed by the French government, William H. McIntosh was given a chance to address the several dozen family members and friends who came to the ceremony.
But he only said a few words – and not into the mic.
“Mr. McIntosh would just like to say ‘thank you,’” Jack Cowan, who represents France in the state of Washington, told the crowd, passing on McIntosh’s brief words to attendees at Faith Bible Church in north-central Spokane.
Cowan, an honorary consul of France, had just pinned the French Legion of Honor medal on McIntosh’s lapel.
McIntosh, 91, joined the U.S. Army in 1943. He served in the 75th Infantry Division and fought in three battles, including the Battle of the Bulge. He won a Bronze Star and three battle stars in more than a year in Europe, but his family rarely heard much about his service.
Karl Leslie, his grandson, said his grandfather is one of his idols; a humble and honorable man.
“If you didn’t know better, you wouldn’t know he served in the military at all,” Leslie said.
He only learned of his grandfather’s military career when one day he noticed a label pin of the 75th Infantry Division on one of his grandpa’s coats.
“He’s definitely the monarch of the family,” said William McIntosh’s granddaughter, Liz McIntosh. “Everyone looks up to him.”
McIntosh and his wife, Nell, raised three children in Northwest Spokane.
Billie Carter, McIntosh’s oldest daughter, said she and her siblings still don’t know much about their dad’s time fighting in World War II. She’s learned some in the past few years, especially when she went with him to Washington, D.C., on an Honor Flight to visit the World War II Memorial. She learned more while gathering necessary information to apply for the French award two years ago – setting Saturday’s ceremony in motion.
“He’s a doer rather than a talker,” Carter said.
Nell McIntosh, his wife of 64 years, said her husband has been most likely to open up about his service with other members of the 75th Infantry Division.
“He hardly ever talks about it – except maybe at the reunions,” she said.
After the ceremony, McIntosh shook some hands, kindly accepted congratulations and patiently posed for dozens of photos. All three of his children and all three of his grandchildren were at the ceremony. When it was time to leave, McIntosh drove his wife back to their home since 1957, where he still maintains the lawn.
Veterans who helped liberate France are eligible for the award.
“We will never forget,” Cowan said at the ceremony. “You are forever France’s hero.”
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