05/31/04 — OPINION -- Highest honor

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OPINION -- Highest honor

By Gene Price
Published in News on May 31, 2004 1:57 PM

Dr. Richard Borden, a Goldsboro native, will make a sentimental journey to the beaches of Normandy on the 60th anniversary of the Allies' D-Day invasion of Europe.

He made that invasion with the first wave of U.S. troops as an 18-year-old Navy corpsman.

But this time he returns as one of 100 American veterans chosen to be named Knight of the Legion of Honor -- France's most prestigious award.

The veterans will be honored at a reception at the French Embassy in Washington on June 3 before leaving by a special flight to France that evening.

Now retired and living in Morehead City, Borden was advised by Jean-David Levitte of the French Embassy of his selection by the president of France.

The Legion of Honor awards will be presented in ceremonies in Paris on June 5, and recipients then will be feted at a reception at the American Embassy.

On June 6, before a gathering including 15 heads of state, the veterans, each wearing the Legion of Honor over his heart, will assemble for commemoration services at Normandy.

Sixty years ago, Borden was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism and his services to the wounded on the beaches. "Individually, we weren't heroes. Collectively, I guess we were," he said recently.

Fifty percent of the corpsmen and medics were casualties. Borden's best buddy was shot through the head while assisting him in loading a wounded soldier on a stretcher.

"My ears still ring from the scream of German 88s," Borden says. The 88 was Germany's most awesome artillery piece -- used for everything from anti-aircraft to anti-personnel. For Borden, there also are echoes of the screams for "Medic!" from wounded GIs or their buddies.

He was on the beachhead for 21 days. Borden recalls the first three days as the toughest. He didn't have time even to dig a slit trench during the first two days.

Borden and another corpsman in his unit returned from the war to finish college and medical school and become physicians.

He practiced in Goldsboro for several years before moving to Carteret County, where he practiced until retirement.