CRESTVIEW — A member of the Crestview Sister City organization has received France's highest accolade. Don Bohler, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and former Air Force Academy faculty member, was awarded the Legion of Honor for his work recognizing American World War II heroes who aided in France's liberation.


CRESTVIEW — A member of the Crestview Sister City organization has received France's highest accolade.



Don Bohler, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and former Air Force Academy faculty member, received the Legion of Honor for his work recognizing American World War II heroes who aided in France's liberation.



"It wasn't expected," Bohler, of Niceville, said. "I didn't know until the consulate called me up and said, 'We need a copy of your passport.'



"I said, 'Why?' They said, 'Well, you've been nominated for the Légion d'Honneur,' and I said, 'Well, isn't that something.'"



Bohler and his wife, Marie-Claude, spend summers at the couple's home near the Mediterranean Sea in Montpelier, France.



While there, Bohler pursues his interest in history. In 2009, he was instrumental in locating family members of a fallen U.S. fighter pilot, who, with 23 fallen French Resistance fighters, is memorialized at the La Pezade memorial in the South of France.



Bohler also located the flight leader, then 87, and in 2010 was instrumental in bringing the veteran and members of his family to La Pezade for honors and decoration by the French government.



Most recently, Bohler's research skills located the co-pilot's brother and crewmen's descendants of an American B-17 that crash-landed off the beach of Noirmoutier, Crestview's French Sister City. The Bohlers were among a 22-member delegation from Crestview that visited Noirmoutier in June to help commemorate the unveiling of a memorial to the bomber's crew.



'Profound gratitude'



In a letter notifying Bohler of his receiving the Legion of Honor, French ambassador to the United States Françis Delattre expressed "profound gratitude" for Bohler’s "exemplary courage and exceptional commitment to the memory of the fallen."



Bohler received the Legion of Honor by mail earlier this week at his Niceville home. The decoration, a merit-based honor created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, will be officially conferred at the French consulate in Miami, probably at the beginning of the new year.



Bohler said he wouldn't miss the ceremony for anything.



"I want the handshake and the kiss on both cheeks," he said.



Upon officially receiving the order, Bohler will be elevated to the French rank of "chevalier," or knight.



"I looked up who received the Légion d'Honneur, and found some really important people received this," Bohler said. "I'm gratefully appreciative of the honor of joining their ranks."



In good company



Crestview Sister City organization member Don Bohler joins a long list of distinguished Legion of Honor recipients.



Among them are Alexander Graham Bell, Desmond Tutu, Jacques Cousteau, Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Sean Connery, Salvador Dalí,Céline Dion, Kirk Douglas, Clint Eastwood, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jane Goodall, Norman Mailer, Wynton Marsalis, Sir Paul McCartney, George S. Patton, Luciano Pavarotti, Colin Powell, Robert Redford, JK Rowling, Nicolas Sarkozy, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand and Elizabeth Taylor



Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or brianh@crestviewbulletin.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.