Minnesota WWII veteran receives French military's highest honor

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Just days before the Fourth of July, patriotic pageantry honored one of the Greatest Generation for freeing a different country in a different war.

Black and white military photos and an array of medals proudly displayed on a table tell the story of 1st Lt. Boyd Sorenson’s 89 missions over Europe as a fighter pilot in World War II. Sorenson flew in both the Royal Canadian Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Corps.

“I did what they told me,” said Sorenson. “I flew the missions because I could do it … I shot a plane my first volunteer mission in France. I’m just one person there.”

Now 96 years old, he’s still too humble to call himself a hero. In front of family and friends Monday, the French government saluted the Minnesota man’s wartime efforts with the Legion of Honor medal.

“It is my country’s highest distinction - both civil and military - it awards people who have done exceptional deeds for the French nation and the French people,” said Guillaume Lacroix, the Consul General of France to the Midwest region.

“This is for everybody that flew with me, it wasn’t just me there were a lot of them that went down,” said Sorenson.

It’s a high honor generations of Sorenson’s family witnessed after his own daughter first nominated him for this medal last year.

“That, to me, is the best part... we got to know his past a lot better because of this,” said Linda Podvin, Sorenson’s daughter.

“Getting to know the missions he flew was really important,” said Dan Mahoney, Sorenson’s grandson. “We know what he did was important, but getting the details through this process has been incredible.”

It’s an incredible tribute to a man who helped free France from the skies above.

“I was never a hero before, it just happened,” said Sorenson.

Sorenson also flew 72 missions in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War as well.