Short biographies of veterans who received the French Legion of Honor on Nov 9th 2018
First Sergeant Alfred DIETRICK from San Antonio, Texas.
You were born on December 15, 1921. Drafted into the U.S. Army, you landed in North Africa and in 1943, you took part of the Allied invasion of Italy. as an infantry platoon sergeant with the 36th Infantry Division. After you suffered a knee injury, you were assigned to an ordinance company, arriving in France in September 1944. and providing support to the Allied advance through to Epinal and Grenoble. You then crossed into Germany in April 1945.
After the war, you came back to your wife Birdie, with whom you raised your son Stephen. You worked in the Engineering Department of Kelly Aerospace for 30 years. Later, you joined the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. As a member of the 36th Infantry Division Retired Association. your contribution to the Memorial Hall at the Texas Military Forces Museum. was rewarded by the Lone Star Distinguished Service Medal. In an endeavor to ensure that the military accomplishments of the 36th Division were not forgotten, you arranged for a monument to be erected in downtown San Antonio in 1991.
In recognition of your military service, you were awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the European, African and Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 5 Bronze Stars, American Defense Service Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.
Staff Sergeant Paul FRANK from Burnett, Texas
You were born in Michigan on February 5th, 1925. At the age of 18 you enlisted in the Army Air Corps. You first served in Salt Lake City, Utah, before being transferred to Dyersburg Army Air Base in Tennessee to be trained on the legendary B-17 Flying Fortress as a waist and tail gunner. Your crew and you – and your B-17, the ‘Helen Back’ - were assigned to the Eighth Airforce’s 96th Bomb Group, based northeast of London. You flew 32 combat missions, including two over France on June 6th, 1944. Most of your missions targeted German industry, against heavy enemy air defenses.
After your discharge, you continued as an aircraft mechanic and budget analyst at Travis Air Force Base for another 39 years. You now live with your daughter Joanne in Texas where you enjoy baseball, and your great-grandson, Benjamin Paul Brummett.
In recognition of your military service, you were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with 3 Oak Clusters, the European, African and Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 4 Bronze Stars, and the Good Conduct Medal.
Major Sam MATTINA from Houston
You were born in Florida on November 3, 1922 . After you joined the Army in 1943, you were assigned to a machine gun section with the Fifth Infantry Division. You landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day and took part in the Normandy Campaign. Reassigned to General Patton’s Third Army, your division and you fought across northern France, in the Battle of the Bulge, through the Rhineland and into Central Europe. You were wounded in November 1944 but returned to action. In recognition of your abilities, you were advanced to Staff Sergeant.
After the war you joined the Army Reserve. You graduated from Tulane University and then earned your law degree at Loyola University, retiring as a Major in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG Corps). You spent most of your professional career with Gulf/Chevron Oil Corporation in Houston, Texas as a Tax Attorney and then later in Governmental Affairs. In 1951, you married Alma Rey Mattina, whom you dated, and have been married to, for 70 years. You have five children and eight grandchildren.
In recognition of your military service, you were awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Purple Heart, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the European, African and Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 5 Bronze Stars, WWII Victory Medal, and the Honorable Service Lapel Button.
Private Norman RIGGSBY from Medina, Texas
You were born in Chicago on March 26, 1925. You joined the Army in 1943 and you were assigned to the 29th Infantry Division as a rifleman. With your companions, you landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day and fought in the Normandy Campaign, taking part in the Battle of Saint Lô, then moving across Northern France towards the eastern front .
After a short stint as MP during the Nuremburg trials, you were discharged from the military in 1946 and returned to California, but soon left with your family to work with Schlumberger in Texas. During your 30 years of employment there you were able put yourself through the University of Houston at night and qualified in electrical engineering.
You recently were invited to go on an Honor Flight to Washington and met up with other veterans whose service was also being recognized.
You have been awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Purple Heart, the European, African and Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Stars, the WWII Victory Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.
Captain Ben H. Schleider, Jr. from Brenham, TX.
You were born in Brenham on January 21st, 1921. You joined the Army in 1943. After completing Officer Candidate School, you were commissioned and served with several field artillery battalions. Prior to the French Campaign, you were assigned to the headquarters of the Sixth Armored Division. There, you served as aide-de-camp to its commanding officer, Major General Robert W. Grow. You fought with your division in Normandy and were wounded in action south of Avranches in August 1944. You followed your division through northeast France, the Battle of the Bulge, and into Germany.
After the war, you studied law and married Dorothy Dabbs and the two of you raised Benjamin, Laura, Peter and John. You practiced law for almost 60 years in your native Brenham and in Houston.
In recognition of your military service, you were awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the European, African and Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with five Bronze Battle Stars, Meritorious Service Medal, and the German Occupation Medal.
Ladies and gentlemen, several awardees were unable to attend the ceremony today. Four of them are represented by a member of their family who will now receive the medal in their name.
Corporal Allen Wesley (“A.W.”) Cockrell Jr. from Corrigan, Texas was born on January 11, 1924.
He joined the Army in 1943. In March 1944, he was assigned to Company C, 49th Armored Infantry Battalion of the Eighth Armored Division, first as a heavy truck driver, then as an anti-tank gunner on a halftrack armored vehicle. Reinforcing the Allied landings in France, his division landed at Le Havre, France. fighting across the country towards the east, the Battle of the Bulge, the Rhineland, and into Central Europe.
After the war, he graduated in 1949 from Texas Tech as a Civil Engineer. He began working for the Texas Highway Department. and in 1951, he married Barbara Lazalier. They moved to San Augustine where their four daughters were born. He and the family settled in Lufkin, Texas where he became Resident Engineer, retiring in 1983.
In recognition of his military service, he was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Bronze Star, the European, African and Middle Eastern Service Ribbon with 3 Bronze Battle Stars, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Theater Service Ribbon, and the Good Conduct Medal.
Sadly Allen Cockerell passed away recently at the age of 94, His daughter Jody Cockerel will receive the medal on his behalf.
Lieutenant Stanley S. Marcus from El Paso was born in New York City on February 3rd 1921.
Upon graduation from college, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942. Soon after being commissioned, he was assigned to an artillery unit. He landed in France after D-Day. He fought in northern France, the Battle of the Bulge and the Rhineland. As part of Patton’s Third Army, he was among the first liberators of three concentration camps – including Flossenburg Concentration Camp - as they fought their way to Pilsen, Czechoslovakia.
Lieutenant Marcus received a medical discharge from the Army and settled in El Paso, Texas. There, he helped raise his daughter, Wendy, and his son, Howard. Several years ago he made contact with, and arranged to meet in person, a survivor of Flossenburg Concentration Camp who had been fourteen when Lieutenant Marcus liberated the facility.
In recognition of his military service, Lieutenant Marcus was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, the European, African and Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Army of Occupation of Germany Medal, the American Campaign Medal, and the WWII Victory Medal.
Stanley Marcus was unable to travel to Austin today, his son Howard Yancy will receive the medal on his behalf
James Roland SIMMONS from Bay City, Texas as born in Colfax Louisiana on March 7th, 1922.
He joined the army in 1942 and was assigned to the 746th Tank Battalion as a mechanic. On June 12, 1944, following the D-Day invasion, he was wounded near Montbury, France.
After the war, he married Rosalie and settled in Cedar Lane, Texas. They had 2 daughters Prissy and Rinda. James Simmons worked with a local lumber company. He loved farming, ranching and his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.
In recognition of his military service, Mr. Simmons was awarded the Purple Heart, the American Theater Campaign Medal, the European, African and Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 1 bronze star, the WWII Victory Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
Mr. Simmons passed away recently. He was 96 years old. Richard O’Neal Jr. his grandson will receive the medal on his behalf
Colonel Orange STEFFEY from San Antoniowas born in Los Angeles, California, in 1922.
After graduating high school, he joined the Army Air Force in 1943. As an aerial gunner with the 8th Air Force’s 493rd Bomb Group, he flew 34 combat missions with B17’s and B24’s over Normandy, Southern France, Germany and Central Europe. On D-Day, as his group staged for its first mission over occupied France, two of the B24’s collided with one another and fell into the ocean. Despite the horrific loss of their friends, the men pushed ahead and flew the mission.
At the end of the war, Orange Stuffy returned to Los Angeles and worked in banking. But, after five years. he joined the Air Force., retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He then became a legal investigator for the City of San Antonio, Texas. Colonel Steffey has a daughter, Dee Marie, and two sons, Michael and Jonathan.
In recognition of his military service, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the European, African Middle and Eastern Campaign Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
Unable to travel to Austin today, Colonel Orange Stuffy has asked us to remit his medal to his son Mike