Piedmont man honored by French for WWII


"To us you are a true hero," said Romain Serman.

Serman, the French consul general, saluted 87-year-old Manuel "Manny" Victor Lorea with the French government's highest award -- the Legion Of Honor, created by Napoleon in 1802. Lorea was thanked for contributing to the liberation of France during WW II.

"I'm highly honored by the French Government to provide me with this gift," said Lorea.

Lorea was one of a family of eight children living in Oakland. He joined the army at age 19 and headed to France.

"It was go, go, go, march after march, 30 miles, chasing the enemy," said Lorea. "All of a sudden all hell tuned loose, mortar shells falling, bodies are flying back like this."

He prayed and he survived, only to be shot in the leg later and then hit in the neck by shrapnel from a tank. He would receive the Purple Heart. In a basement he encountered a German soldier with a grenade in his hand. The soldier put it down.

"He could have let that go. And that's it, boom. He would have killed quite a few of us," said Lorea.

When the war ended, Lorea didn't want to look back.

"Yeah, I had all kinds of nightmares," said Lorea. "You see all of those things, it hit me real hard."

When he returned home, he found solace in music and became a successful, popular musician at clubs and events for years.

"I played in San Francisco and worked for Sally Stanford," said Lorea.

The Legion of Honor joins his other medals, which are tributes to his heroism.

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