More than a year after a landmine ended his time on the frontlines of World War II, Jimmie Royer’s leg was still in pain.
“I was having trouble standing on it,” Royer recalled. “I went and asked the surgeon, he said, ‘I wouldn’t touch that again, you wear your Ace bandage and go home and stay off it.’ I got in the car and put my head on that steering wheel, I said, ‘Lord, I’m leaving everything up to you, I’m not worried about a thing anymore, but I don’t plan on being a cripple.’
“So I went home and got barbells and started doing deep knee exercises. I had to put my heels on a 2x4 because I couldn’t bend my ankles. So I got to where I could stand on my leg. I thank the Lord every day, because I’m not a cripple now,” he said.
There was little sign that Royer, 94, had ever had trouble standing as he accepted France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honor, during a Sept. 29 ceremony at Wayne Newton American Legion Post 346 in Terre Haute, Ind.
Royer, while serving in the Army’s 106th Cavalry during World War II, was injured by a landmine during the Lorraine Forest campaign, on Oct. 27, 1944. Royer recalled his experience in the hospital at Marseilles a week after the injury.
“I took a spit bath and shaved, and as soon as I got done, the nurse came to take the water away and I got nauseated. That bed started spinning around like a top,” he said.
Royer was bleeding out: “Every time they would build my blood volume up, I would bleed. When it was down, I wouldn’t bleed.” Doctors couldn’t find the source, but an operation the night before Thanksgiving seemed to do the trick.
“They took me down and put me on the operating table, cut the bandages, and when they cut that bandage, the blood flew to the ceiling. They slapped a tourniquet on me and ether on me and everything went black. But the pain was gone,” Royer said. “I woke up the next morning and I couldn’t bend my arm, it was tied down to the bed with enough blood going in there, and there was something going in this arm. They had started blood in me that night, all Thanksgiving day, all Thanksgiving night and part of the next day. Eight quarts and 1 ½ pints of blood they give me in that time.”
Royer was told the hospital had to ask for donations of blood from the French people because he needed so much. “So I have some French blood in me,” he joked.
Royer had more complications from his wounds after his return to the U.S. But the devout Royer put his trust in God — and exercise.
On Sunday, the spry 94-year-old sat beside his wife of 73 years, Ruby, as family and friends congratulated him and dignitaries saluted him.
Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General of France in Chicago, presented Royer with the Legion of Honor on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron. Lacroix spoke of France’s gratitude to the U.S. for its help in freeing the country from Nazi rule.
“You are a true American hero, and you are a true French hero,” Lacroix told Royer.
Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett proclaimed Sept. 29 “Jimmie H. Royer Day” in the city, and Paul Fagin of Post 281 in nearby Cloverdale presented Royer with a challenge coin.
Representing Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indiana War Memorial Commission Executive Director Stewart Goodwin praised Royer and his generation for shaping and saving the world.
“The fact of the matter is, if the World War II people didn’t do what they did, we’re not here today, and we’re sure as hell not speaking English,” Goodwin said. “The reason we have the freedoms we have today, are because of his generation, and because of the sacrifices that they made.”
As for Royer, who previously received the Purple Heart, the Good Conduct Medal, and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon with three Bronze Stars, receiving the Legion of Honor was “beyond my wildest dreams.”
“I never thought about getting anything like this,” he said. “I’m so thankful.”