LOWELL (KFSM) -- A Lowell veteran was honored for risking his life on the French coast more than 70 years ago.
Elza Tucker was 23 when he fought in the Battle of Normandy on Omaha Beach during World War II.
“The Germans were coming from the back of me and I could see them and I set a big barn on fire so I could see them as they came through,” Tucker said.
During that particularly dangerous situation, Tucker said he was able to get to a machine gun to defend his fellow soldiers.
"But one [German] got close enough to throw a hand grenade and got two of my men and knocked me back about 30 feet,” he said.
Tucker was honored for his service on D-day with the French Legion of Honor medal in his home town of Lowell on Friday (July 8).
“I am sure glad to get this, this is quite an honor because it`s equal to our congressional medal of honor,” he said.
The medal is France’s way of thanking veterans for risking their lives to liberate the country.
During the war, Tucker was a staff sergeant in the Second Armored Division, also known as Hell on Wheels, under General George Patton.
"I wish we had more today of General Patton because he had two ivory-handled pistols that he carried on each side,” he said.
Aside from the battle of Normandy, Tucker fought in four other major battles during the war including the invasion of Sicily. Tucker said he and General Patton had a close call during that fight.
“He was standing out in front of me, shooting at this airplane and it was coming in straight and it came right by me and just hit the ground up and that`s how close I came to getting hit there,” he said.
The elementary school in Lowell is also named after Tucker and during the week, he works at the Lowell Historical Museum.