By Jasmine Willis
NUNDA — A local WWII Veteran Staff Sgt. And Chevalier Harold Brunswick “Bud” Long received the highest honor at the Nunda Historical Society.
On July 31, the French Honorary Consul gave Staff Sgt. Long the highest honors. Long was given the French Medal of Honor. Making him Knight in the Legion of Honor.
Pascal Soares, French Honorary Consul, presented Long with this prestigious award along with an explanation of the medal.
“On this particular day I want to pay a special tribute to you Mr. Long. An American hero, who more than 70 years ago risked his young life for the freedom of France and Europe. I extend a warm welcome to his family and friends for coming here today to show admiration and pride for what you have done. I would like to pay a tribute to you sir, and to all American veterans who liberated France and Europe,” he said. “We French never forget what those men did, what you did, to restore our freedom. I would also like to remember the sacrifice of so many of your comrades. You all rest on French soil and all will remain forever in our hearts.”
“Let me go to what the French President said in Washington on his first visit to state. To those 20 years ago he wrote, ‘To the family who gave us everything, to those who never returned, to the children who mourned their fathers they never got a chance to know, I want to express France eternal gratitude.’ In the soul and the mind of each French citizen young and old alike there is an eternal gratitude to our American friends,” Soares continued. “The Chevalier was founded by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1802. It was established to reward outstanding services to France on basis of personal merit. The Chevalier is a French Honor Award. Sir Long you have cooperated in the Air Force on Oct. 1942 with 83 Air Birds. You later became part of the 78 Fighter Group in Oxford, UK. You helped create an emergency airstrip for progress in France.”
“Us French will not forget you were flying over France and there for action. We did not. We will never forget. Even my mother and father were 10 and 12 years old at the time. They remember when the Nazi’s came to town to occupy and left when you and your comrades came to rescue us. For them sir I would like to thank you. Today you are our hero. Today you are our Chevalier,” Soares concluded.
Long shared some stories of how he arrived on D-Day, coming on a concentration camp at the end of the war, and how he stole a German vehicle to get away.
“We had a German truck we were on with fake numbers that we stole to get the guns out of it. We thought we were going to get caught, but they didn’t stop us. We were going the wrong way, but they let us go. We saw a concentration camp at the end of the war. You could smell it for five miles away. We had taken the gate down and will never forget what we saw. The Germans had left about three days before that. The guys that were still alive were starving. We wanted to feed them, but we couldn’t because their stomachs would explode. The medic had to spoon feed them and give them a tiny cup of water every hour,” he said.
“On D-Day we were given rations. I remember we were on a ship and part of the third wave. I thought we would be fine since we weren’t the first or second wave. When we saw Omaha Beach it looked like a 500-foot sand wall. We were all backed into the ship there were so many of us in our gear. The ship was going too fast when it hit the sand and a 20-foot wave went over our heads. It took all of our gear off. We had to run off the ship and grab the guns left on the beach to start shooting. The guys were shooting down on us as we climbed up. We had to throw hand grenades up there, “ Long continued.
“The night on the beach was hard. We were told we couldn’t make any noise or movement. Any movement or noise and you would hear all these gunshots at the beach all night long. A farmer lost all of his cows that night. We didn’t think D-Day would go down as an historic event at the time. We thought it would be a piece of cake. We were all young and tough back then,” Long continued. “We lost a lot of lives on D-Day. I am one of the lucky ones that made it back. When we got out there were some sick, wounded, and I was heartsick. There were only 20 of us left and the rest were replacements. I had trained and fought with these guys and they were all gone.”
Rep. Chris Collins honored Chevalier Long with the American Flag flown over the Capital Building in Washington, D.C. and Veteran of the Month.
“I want to thank you for honoring Bud with the Legion of Honors. It is all of our honor to be here. The congress would like to honor Bud as a Knight in the Legion of Honor,” he said. “We have honored many of our WWII veterans. As you know in this day and age, we are losing too many of our WWII vets. When we are here to honor someone like Bud, in partnership with the French Honorary Consul it makes it very special. I would like to give the Patriot Guards, many of them being Vietnam Veterans a round of applause for being here for Bud. You are the greatest generation, and we can’t thank you enough for the freedoms we have today.”
Chevalier Long was born in Tonawanda and has made his home for several years in Nunda.
Upon graduating high school, he worked on the P40s at the Curtiss Inc. in Buffalo. In June of 1942 he married the love of his life, but he was drafted in September 1942 for WWII. After getting training in Baltimore, Long became known as the flying crew chief. Long spent from 1942 to 1945 in the war. He was part of four major battles including D-Day. After military service was complete, he worked on C-47 cargo planes. Long is a member of the Woodlawn Golf Club in Nunda.
Annie Chwiecko, Sen. Patrick Gallivan liaison was honored to hear Long’s story. A proclamation was given honoring the special day.
“I am not a veteran. I am the mother of a veteran. From the bottom of my heart I thank you for your service. What you did and when you did it, you certainly are one of the heroes. We are honored to pay tribute to you today,” she said.
Stephanie Schroeder, Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes liaison said she was honored to be part of the event. A citation was given honoring the special day.
“I am honored to be here. I am so amazed by everything I read in your background. It is so impressive, and I am so happy I could be here today,” she said.
Nunda Supervisor Merilee Walker said she loves having a WWII veteran like Bud in her village.
“He is a wonderful citizen here in Nunda, as well as his past with the veterans. When we have our board meetings in the county level, we have a veteran come in to give the Pledge of Allegiance. They have all done a wonderful job. This man has done a terrific job. His enthusiasm touched all of our hearts. We are giving Bud a certificate of appreciation,” she said.
Steve Kovacik, Patriot Guard Riders member gives Long a special plaque.
“We are all very honored to be here. On a personal note our fathers were both in Patton’s unit. I have several things to present. One was made by one of our decorated Vietnam Veterans. We also have a plaque I would like to read for all of you,” he said. “On behave of the Patriot Guard Riders and a grateful America for greatly and proudly carrying the burden of fighting for this country. We sincerely thank you. Harold Brunswick “Bud” Long. United States Army Air Corp. Active Duty 1942 to 1945. WWII Veteran. D-Day Survivor.”
Benjamin Pomerance, NYS Division of Veterans’ Services director, said he has seen one other person knighted in Salamanca on the Seneca Nation.
“One of the best parts of my job is the chance to meet heroes each and every day. You meet them truly throughout every region and every community. Recently I was in a town called Rouses Point way up in the middle of nowhere. It was smaller than Nunda. On this back street in a non-describable house was a gentleman who had served in WWII. He had flown some of the most perils missions imaginable in a B-25; a true hero. In a way he was hiding in plain sight on a back street in that small town in Upstate New York. This story repeats itself over and over again throughout the state,” he said. “It repeats itself here today with the honor of Mr. Long and the honor he has done for this country. He truly changed the course of history. The one reason why these stories hide in plain sight is because the heroes themselves often don’t think of themselves as heroes. Mr. Long told me he was one of many heroes. This is true; there were in fact many.”
Jason Skinner, Livingston County Veterans’ Services director said he is honored to know veterans like Long.
“Not a lot of people know I am a war veteran myself. I spent 14 months overseas in Iraq. The generation that is the Greatest Generation in WWII has been in service for a duration. It puts things in perspective when the men and women who were serving thought the war would be over by Christmas. They said that four times. They spent four years overseas always thinking it would be over. So many of these discharges happened by the thousands when the war was over and the forts were overrun. Someday I want to be just like Mr. Long,” he said.
In the last ten years there has been a pull to find all the surviving American soldiers of D-Day and award them with Knight of the Legion of Honor. There have been many from WWII who have had this honor, but the number is unclear how many in the nation. There have only been a couple in New York.