News: Local veteran becomes French knight
Story by Melissa Walther
LANGLEY, Va. - Seventy years ago American soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy, liberated France and ultimately brought about the end of Nazi Germany.
In recognition for that liberation, the government of France has been honoring those veterans who took part in that historic invasion by inducting them into the Legion of Honor and bestowing upon them the rank of knight.
For one such veteran, Hampton, Virginia resident Lee Boone, the honor is one that he considers “long overdue.”
“It was a long time ago, but when I heard I qualified for the Legion [by taking part in the D-Day invasion], I decided to apply and see if I’d get it,” Boone said. “They wanted me to go to Washington, D.C., to the memorial there to get it on Memorial Day, but I had a surgery scheduled, so I couldn’t go.”
Instead, Boone received the honor at the 30th Annual Bernard L. Marie D-Day Dinner, June 6 in Roanoke, Virginia.
After dropping out of high school, Boone said he left his home in western Virginia to work in a Baltimore factory making piston rings. His manufacturing career was short-lived though, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army, going through basic training at Camp Van Dorn in Mississippi before being assigned to the 63rd Infantry Division at Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts. He left for Europe on his 19th birthday; the trip, by ship, took two weeks.
“I landed in France on D-plus-four, and ended up staying in Europe until the end of the war,” Boone said. “I went all the way to Germany.”
When he arrived, he was assigned to the 35th Division, Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
“They asked me what kind of infantry experience I had, but didn’t really have any, so they assigned me to HHC, and that’s where I stayed,” Boone said.
He was discharged in 1945. When he returned home, Boone got a job at a grocery store as a clerk, but quickly decided he “couldn’t make a living doing that.”
With his military experience fresh in his mind, he decided to enlist in the newly-created Air Force in 1949, as an administrator. He was stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas and Wiesbaden and Ramstein Air Bases in Germany, where he met his wife.
After reaching the rank of master sergeant, Boone decided to continue his service career, so he joined the civil service, again as an administrator, serving at Forts Eustis and Monroe, Virginia and Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany. Boone then served the Air Force as a civilian before retiring at Langley Air Force Base in 1969.
“I didn’t expect to be retired for so long,” Boone laughed. “But it’s been a good time. My wife and I spent 11 years in Europe and it was great. We spent four years in Italy, I was in Berlin during the airlift – I’ve seen a lot. I’ve got to say though, of all my career, my favorite time was when I was in the Air Force.”