Valley News -

By Kim Harris
Managing Editor 

Anza World War II veteran, Pfc. Dr. Richard Schmitz, is recognized by France for war efforts


Last updated 10/4/2018 at 7:40pm

Kim Harris

Murrieta City Councilman Rick Gibbs addresses 1st Lt. Muriel Engelman, Staff Sgt. Alexandro Tejada, Pfc. Forrest Huffstetler, Pfc. Dr. Richard D. Schmitz of Anza and Christophe Lemoine, consul general of France in Los Angeles, during a special ceremony honoring the World War II veterans with the National Order of The Legion of Honor in the rank of Chevalier for their efforts during the war Thursday, Sept. 20, at Murrieta's Town Square Park.

The city of Murrieta hosted a special presentation Thursday, Sept. 20, at Murrieta Town Square Park honoring four Southern California World War II veterans for their efforts during the war.

Pfc. Dr. Richard Schmitz of Anza, Pfc. Forrest Huffstetler, of Lake San Marcos, Staff Sgt. Alexandro Tejada of San Diego and 1st Lt. Muriel Engelman of Laguna Woods Village were awarded the National Order of The Legion of Honor in the rank of Chevalier from Christophe Lemoine, consul general of France in Los Angeles.

Terri Gans, assistant to the consul general, served as the mistress of ceremonies for the event, reading a biography of each of the awardees.

Murrieta Mayor Jonathan Ingram and Murrieta Councilman Rick Gibbs also addressed those gathered for the event.

"Your contributions and sacrifices 75 years ago are noted today, and not just by the city of Murrieta but also by the French republic," Ingram said. "Your service ensured an entire country would not have to live under foreign rule, and for that, you will be awarded the National Order of Legion of Honor, the highest French order of merit."

Before turning the floor over to Gibbs, Ingram thanked the veterans for their efforts during the war.

"We will forever remain grateful to these heroes before us and their families," he said.

Gibbs, a retired Air Force colonel, told the story of his wife's family who served in both World War I and World War II, before thanking the veterans.

"There is a reason why you four are representative of what is called the greatest generation, because you were the greatest generation and you still are the greatest generation," Gibbs said. "We honor your service and thank you to the Republic of France for honoring you with this long deserved recognition."

Lemoine presented the awards, saying that the people of France were grateful for the efforts put forth by the veterans and the sacrifices they made.

"It is a special day for me as the consul general of France in Los Angeles. I am here to express the everlasting gratitude of the people of France," Lemoine said. "You helped France to restore her freedom. Freedom is a gift that does not come without a price. It requires sacrifices."

Lemoine also thanked all United States veterans of World War II for their sacrifices.

"The French people will never forget that you helped restore their freedom," he said. "Your courage and your dedication is an example to us all."

After the presentation of the medals to Schmitz, Engleman, Tejada and Huffstetler, several state and county representatives spoke, including Jeff Comerchero, chief of staff for Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington, and Cmdr. Nico Melendez, representing his wife, 67th District Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez.

At the end of the ceremony Schmitz, who is known throughout the Anza Valley for being a kind and humble man, was given a chance to address those gathered for the ceremony.

"I'd like to express my appreciation to France and to all of the people here for arranging this really great meeting," he said. "I would like to remind everybody, that during this time, back then, what we are celebrating now, there were a lot of other guys over there, doing just what we were doing."

Kim Harris can be reached by email at [email protected]


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