LA MESA, Calif. — On Tuesday, 99-year-old and World War II Veteran Clayton Baum was awarded as a Knight in the Order of the Legion of Honor.

It’s an award created by Napoleon Bonaparte more than 220 years ago.

He was honored and recognized for his pivotal role in French American History as he was part of the brave troops who fought and defended the liberation of France.

“It is the highest and most prestigious French award a person can receive,” Julie Duhaut-Bedos, Consul General of France in Los Angeles said. “Mr. Clayton Baum, France has not forgotten the American young men like you who demonstrated their selfless, generosity and unwavering bravery while under fire by the enemy.”

“Am I worthy of this?” Baum bashfully said during his acceptance speech. He said he wants to share this award with those who sacrificed it all. “It’s something I didn’t think I deserve because there’s more of those we left there in the hallowed grounds.”

Baum was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943, and a few months later, and what ended up being just days after D Day, Baum landed at Utah Beach in Normandy France and then served with the Service Battery of the 268th Field Artillery Battalion.

It was announced during the ceremony that with this recogtion, Baum joined the ranks of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, General Douglas MacArthur, General George Patten and a few others.

According to the Counsel General of France in Los Angeles, there are only about 200 Americans who have received this award.

Baum said he had just one message to others: “Love America, it’s one of the greatest countries, take care of it, be proud of it, don’t run it down.”

Baum has lived in La Mesa since 1963 and will turn 100 in June.

His was married to his late wife Eleanor for 74 years before she died in January 2021. They had three children, Ronald, Sandra and Douglas, who was killed in action in Vietnam.

Baum has eight grandkids and 15 great grandchildren. Many of them were there to celebrate his award Tuesday.

La Mesa City leaders were also in attendance Tuesday to honor Baum for his 8,000 hours of community service to the La Mesa Police Department.