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NFM veteran receives Legion d’honneur

By Staff | Jun 8, 2010

To be inducted into the Legion d’honnuer– France’s highest honor to an American — is a feat on its own. To be inducted as the second woman ever in this area of the country is another distinction.
North Fort Myers resident Albina “Tommie” Thompson recently had that honor, in a ceremony in Miami along with all the pomp and circumstance it was known for.
She was bestowed the honor on the French Naval Ship Chevalier Paul in the Port of Miami.
“The ship is new, but it is a destroyer, different looking than our ships are. It’s probably a year or two old,” said Thompson. “They had a reception, and the naval officers and sailors were there. It was extremely hot and they were at attention. I felt so proud, I really did, I had tears in my eyes.
“It was also absolutely elegant,” said Thompson of the luncheon ceremony. “I was overwhelmed and so proud. I never dreamt this could never happen because my service was so many years ago.”
Thompson and 14 men were honored. They are deemed a “chevalier” of the Legion of Honor.
“The award testifies to the President of the French Republic’s high esteem for your merits and accomplishments,” the congratulatory award states. “In particular, it is a sign of France’s true and unforgettable gratitude and appreciation for your personal, precious contribution to the United States’ decisive role in the liberation of our country during World War II.”
“She happened to get her award on the 65th anniversary of VE Day, Victory in Europe Day. France celebrates it still because they were liberated that day,” said friend and caregiver Margaret Fanning. “Of the ceremony itself, she said, “The event was unbelievable.”
“We were very impressed with it,” said Thompson. “The ambassador from France, Pierre Vimont, was there along with and one of the highest ranking French female dignitaries, Anne-Marie Idrac. The French Minister of State for Foreign Trade was a speaker, and spoke about all the honorees and what they did to liberate France.”
She said the ambassador and the captain of the ship all had velvet pillows with five metals each to bestow on the honorees.
The consulate-general of France from Miami also was there.
Thompson recently had tea at the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama in November, 2009. She was part honored along with 130 service women who were invited to the White House as part of a veterans event tribute. The guest list included current women military personnel as well as those who served in the past, like Thompson.
Thompson was an Army nurse caring for Americans on the hospital ship Algon-quin during World War II. At that time, Eleanor Roose-velt was first lady.
From the article, another local North Fort Myers honor recipient, Ray Reed, called Thompson to congratulate her. He also suggested she send in her credentials to be considered for Legion D’Honnerier, the honor he received last year.
“I located her and asked her if she was in D-Day in France, and she was on the Algonquin.”
He told her she was entitled to the medal, and he called people responsible for evaluating applications “I thought if she was entitled for it, she should send in her records.”
After she got the French honor, she received another memorable call. It was from the first woman ever inducted into the Legion D’Honnerier.
“Did you go to Worcester Hahnemann Hospital? Did you drive a Packard convertible when you were in school?” the woman asked.
Thompson said, “yes.”
The woman was Kate Flynn Nolan, and Nolan told her they were in school together when they did psychiatric affiliation, and she lived in Naples. They hadn’t seen her since they were in school, probably 1942, said Thompson.
The women will meet in the future, and Reed said he is looking forward to meeting Thompson here in North Fort Myers as well.
Thompson, 89, is originally from Falmouth, Mass., and has lived in North Fort Myers for the last seven years. She was one of 59,000 Army nurses who served during World War II.
Ray Reed got his honor last March. Samuel Nogaro of North Fort Myers has also been chosen for the distinction.