Four Utahns who fought in France during World War I got an official thank you from that country Thursday during the 70th anniversary of the armistice that brought to an end the "war to end all wars."
Abraham Marion Bergeson, Bountiful; William Henry Butterfield, Herriman; Lorenzo Matthew Howard, Riverton; and Robert William Turner, Bluffdale; all received certificates from the French Republic Secretary of State for War Veterans thanking them for the "service rendered to France during the war of 1914-1918."The certificates were written in French, but translated and presented by the four former soldiers' comrades in Post 140 of the American Legion in Riverton. The presentations were made during a ceremony observed by scores of friends and relatives.
The four veterans stood proudly and saluted as the colors were posted at the beginning of the ceremony.
"It brings back a lot of memories," said Turner, who was in Belgium the day of the armistice. "It seemed almost too good to be true - it was so quiet."
Upon learning of the armistice, "We had the wildest party you could imagine," Bergeson said.
"I was on my way to Germany from Belgium when we got the news," Howard said. "We got there just in time to turn around and come back. We missed the old kaiser when he fled to Holland. Two more hours and we'd have had the old buzzard."
Butterfield said France and the war are an indelible part of his family's memory. "I was married when I left. I had a 10-month-old son by the time I got home." Butterfield also had a son who lost his life in France during World War II.
It took five months for the men to get back to their families in Utah.
Other members of the American Legion post learned the French government wanted to give the certificates to American veterans who had fought in France during World War I. "We were informed we had to apply through the Veterans Administration," said Kathleen Howard, the elder Howard's daughter-in-law, whose husband is also a member of the American Legion post.
The post also got permission from the VA to give a posthumous certificate to Richard Thomas Withers, father of Melvin Withers, the post commander.