EUGENE, Ore. - Edgar Peara led invasions in Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily, Salerno, Normandy and the Pacific in World War II.
More than 65 years later, his service earned him France's highest military honor.
French Deputy Consul Madame Corinne Pereira flew in to award Peara with the French Legion of Honor.
"More than 60 years ago, you rescued people you didn't even know," she said. "But you can be sure that those people whom you didn't know have not forgotten. Their children and grandchildren - I am one of them - have not forgotten and will never forget."
Friends and family packed Eugene's City Council Chambers for the ceremony.
"Their goodness, their love of peace, inspires my gratitude and affection," said Peara.
The decorated war hero came with a message of peace.
"Peace is possible," he said. "It takes the unselfish, the laborious efforts of humanity. But it can happen."
He made it happen during war. Peara said he often left his pistol behind to go knock on doors and ask people to surrender their arms.
"By coming in peace, no one resisted us," he said.
Peara now spends his time promoting peace throughout the Willamette Valley and has been seen in the Eugene Celebration Parade and marches with the Veterans for Peace.
Peara had a surprise guest at Thursday's ceremony.
Heather Nolle met Peara 60 years ago in Chicago. "We played tennis and swam in Lake Michigan," she said.
She didn't even know her friend lived here in Eugene until she saw Peara's story in the news this week.
"Well, I'm amazed because I knew him after some of this had happened during the Second World War," she said, "and he never talked about it."
On Thursday, Peara talked about war - and peace.
"I believed that whether the world moves towards peace unitedly, that an individual can move towards peace by himself or herself," he said.
"When I was asked to remove the resistance in Algeria, rather than expecting the people to resist, I took off my helmet, left my pistol behind, told the men to follow me and not to fire unless fired on. Then I went house to house, knocked on doors and said, 'We come in peace. We are here only to have you surrender arms and then we will move on.'"