HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A World War II veteran from Alabama who survived COVID-19 last year is being honored on his 105th birthday Friday with the French Legion of Honor in recognition of his service.
Major Wooten, who repaired bomb-damaged trains in France as an Army private, is receiving France's highest decoration during a combination medal ceremony and birthday party in Huntsville, according to a statement by the French consulate in Atlanta and his granddaughter, Holly McDonald.
"The Legion of Honor is bestowed upon French citizens as well as foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds, including individuals who have contributed to the country professionally, as well as veterans such as the Americans who risked their lives during World War II fighting on French soil," the consulate announcement said.
The consul general for France in Atlanta, Vincent Hommeril, is decorating Wooten with the medal, approved by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Drafted in 1943, Wooten landed in France in 1944 and was one of four brothers serving at the same time during the war. He served in Le Mans before being sent to work at a railroad station in Paris, according to a summary of his service from the French.
Wooten returned home in 1946 following the war and had a postwar career with U.S. Steel in Birmingham. He tested positive for COVID-19 in November 2020 after his daughter contracted the illness but recovered in time to spend his 104th birthday at home.
Wooten "is doing really well" despite the illness and participated in Veterans Day activities recently, said McDonald. Mental fuzziness that initially appeared with the illness faded away, she said, and his physical strength recovered, too.
"We really saw an improvement after therapy," she said.