The Ambassador Bestows Six U.S. Soldiers with the Croix de la Valeur Militaire
Six United States Special Forces soldiers were honored July 25 with the Croix de la Valeur Militaire (“Cross of Military Valor”) by the Ambassador of France to the United States, François Delattre, following their actions in assisting French troops under fire during combat operations in Afghanistan in the Spring of 2011. The medal is France’s equivalent of the U.S. Silver Star.
“I am deeply honored to be hosting this award ceremony,” Ambassador Delattre said, “to pay tribute to six most outstanding American soldiers … who distinguished themselves while fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda elements in Afghanistan. Your presence honors us all and is a tribute to all the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and in other countries for the values we all cherish.”
French General Gratien Maire, who also spoke at the event, honored the six while alluding to Franco-American military history. Addressing the soldiers, he stated that, “with your bravery and your blood, you have written one of the noblest chapters of our bilateral relationship.”
“Your bravery in the face of danger in combat and your determination to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with French soldiers deserve to be commended,” Gen. Maire continued. “In my view, it’s the utmost manifestation of the quality of relations” between France and the United States.
Present at the ceremony were some of the United States’ top-ranking military personnel, including General Martin Dempsey, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, and Admiral Eric T. Olson, Commander of United States Special Operations Command.
U.S. Lieutenant General John F. Mulholland, Jr. commanding officer for U.S. Special Forces Command, affirmed the distinguished cooperation between the two militaries. He explained in an interview following the ceremony that “this is representative of U.S.-French military history… The French were there when we [the U.S.] first went into Afghanistan” in October 2001.
As the guests of honor, the soldiers were similarly positive about France’s military role alongside the United States. “It’s humbling to be honored by the French government in this way,” said U.S. Army Sergeant, Ryan Meister. He expressed appreciation for France’s “continued support in Afghanistan,” noting that “it was the French who called in the helicopters” to evacuate both French and American troops following the recovery mission.
As a part of NATO forces, France has fully supported the U.S.-led NATO efforts in the country, without caveats and in proactive combat environments, including a July 14 mission that resulted in the deaths of five French soldiers. France’s total ranks in Afghanistan number over 4,000.
The six American soldiers that received decorations were Major Richard Nessel, Captain Thomas Harper, Master Sergeant David Neumer, Staff Sergeant Ryan Ahern, Staff Sergeant Ryan Meister and Staff Sergeant Casey Roberts.