COSTA MESA ( — A Costa Mesa great-grandfather was awarded France’s highest civilian honor nearly seventy years after he enlisted to fight in World War II.

David Lester, a 94-year-old war former combat engineer, was awarded the Legion of Honor, together with five other U.S. Army veterans. The accolade is the highest award France gives its citizens and foreign nationals.

“My outfit was the first to liberate Holland, the first to liberate Belgium and the first to invade Germany,” Lester told KCAL9’s Stacey Butler.

And as an active member of the Freedom Committee, which teaches school children about the war, Lester has finally put his story to paper.

“Freedom isn’t free,” said Lester. “We had some people that really, really paid the price.”

His story begins in the Great Depression, and chronicles the battles that earned him two bronze stars and a purple heart.

“I didn’t know how to be a soldier,” said Lester. “But they made me one.”

But more than the medals, Lester said most important is the legacy he fought so hard to leave behind as “grandpa.”

“Actually, a great-grandpa,” he said.


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