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Bruce Lindsay, KSL-TV
Salt Lake physician Joseph Stobbe was among World War II veterans invited back to Metzervisse, France, a town they helped liberate. The town honored the group.

PROVO — They might not consider themselves heroes, but the work of four men toward greater freedom around the world has not gone unnoticed.

Each year, America's Freedom Festival at Provo presents awards to men and women who have been influential in helping others gain and keep freedom.

"I just think it's one of the best kept secrets of the festival," said Vicki Garbutt, who is in charge of the event at which the Freedom Awards are given. "It's what gets at the heart of what we talk about with freedom — celebrating the individuals who sacrifice for their own freedom and the freedom of others."

Pascal Moretti, Joseph Stobbe and Muhammad Yunus will be honored at a 6:30 p.m. gala tonight in the Wilkinson Center Ballroom at Brigham Young University.

An award also will be presented posthumously to the late U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith. It will be accepted by one of Smith's former fellow soldiers.

Although their stories vary — ranging from service in World War II to extending microcredit to poor villages in Bangladesh — they are all inspirational, Garbutt said.

Stobbe, a Utah native, said he is a little surprised by all of the hubbub related to the award dinner, but he'll be there Friday, even giving a five-minute speech.

"My children have been telling me it's a big deal; I haven't quite appreciated it before," he said. "It's getting to be more impressive all the time."

The veteran served in France during World War II and was seriously injured in the city of Metzervisse during fighting to oust the Nazi forces. The 23-year-old returned home, got married and spent his adult life as a physician.

But nearly 60 years later, in 2001, Stobbe returned to France, the same area where he once served. While there, he was injured again, this time in a car accident.

The local police chief, Moretti, learned about Stobbe's situation and gathered some villagers to visit the veteran in the hospital. After realizing Stobbe's role in his city's liberation and then seeing how few people knew about the history, Moretti put together a group to honor Stobbe and the other liberators of the small French town.

The group raised almost $200,000 and paid the travel costs of almost 50 veterans to Metzervisse for a celebration.

Stobbe and six family members traveled to France, enjoying parties, speeches, parades and other celebrations in various towns that honored the former soldiers.

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"It is hard to explain how emotionally involved everybody was and how much we enjoyed it," Stobbe said during a phone interview from his Salt Lake City home.

Although the experience of war changed Stobbe's life, he said his story may have a slightly different impact on others.

"It's an interesting story," he said. "The thing I think intrigues everybody, it shows the friendliness of the ordinary French people and their appreciation for having been liberated back in World War II. Even though most of these people weren't alive at the time, they jump at the chance to celebrate their freedom."

Parade rules for America's Freedom Festival at Provo

PROVO — Provo officials remind those who plan to attend the grand parade of America's Freedom Festival at Provo of the new rules for spectators.

The revised rules:

• Parade spectators should stay on public property (between the curb and the sidewalk) unless invited to set up chairs by a private property owner. Otherwise, they may be cited for trespassing.

• Chairs, blankets and shade canopies can be set up anytime prior to the parade and do not need to be attended.

• Overnight camping on public property along the route is only allowed on University Avenue. If spectators try to camp overnight on 100 South, 200 East or Center Street, they will be cited by Provo police officers. Spectators are welcome in these areas until 11 p.m. Sunday night and after 5 a.m. Monday morning.

• There will be no parking along the parade route after 8 p.m. Sunday night.

• Any vertical obstruction that would block the view of the parade should be removed by 8 a.m. Monday.

• City ordinances on noise, obstructing traffic and disorderly conduct will be enforced.

Signs will be posted along the parade route summarizing the rules, and fliers will be handed out by police officers and others patrolling the parade route.

E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com