- Associated Press - Monday, January 25, 2016

BECKVILLE, Texas (AP) - Applause broke out in a fellowship hall at a church in Beckville, about 140 miles east of Dallas, where two brothers-in-arms reunited to share a long-overdue honor - France’s premier award.

“We spent so many days just hanging on, but it’s a privilege to pin this on one of the bravest men I ever met in my life,” Arlie Ray Horn told the Longview News-Journal (https://bit.ly/1Ovi0LF) as cellphone cameras captured him pinning the French Legion of Honor on Jack Harris.

The Legion of Honor, or Ordre national de la Legion d’honneur, is France’s premier award. Established by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to recognize service to France, the honor is that country’s combined equivalent of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom for civilians and military Medal of Honor.

Foxhole buddies from Omaha Beach to the Elbe River, Horn and Harris were in the vanguard of D-Day invaders who swept across Europe and ended the Nazi menace of World War II.

Nicknamed “Spearhead and Arrowhead” by the soldiers they captured, the two Texans once stood back-to-back under fire.

“He shot everything in front of him, and I shot everything in front of me,” Horn recalled.

Harris, 89, and diagnosed with severe Alzheimer’s disease, smiled and nodded as his friend spoke to the group approaching 40 gathered at Pine Grove Assembly Church.

“You ever think about some of those things, Jack?” Horn, of Beaumont, asked his lifelong friend.

“Yeah - not all the time,” Harris said, a smile appearing.

Harris didn’t let a second tick by when Horn asked whether he were ready to go back to the fight - “Yeah,” he said almost before Horn finished the question.

The U.S. Army Special Forces pair has been through so much together.

“We had over 12,000 people killed out of our outfit that (first) day,” Horn said. “When they ramped up the beach, we walked right into steady gunfire. … We fought on the front lines.”

It was early in the invasion when the two sealed a bond that already was well-forged by the time they left Dover, England, with the invading force on D-Day. Early in the invasion, they found two captured Americans after searching a few days.

The men had been shot dead by the enemy.

“We said, ‘Look. We’re never going to surrender after what we saw,’” Horn said, describing how each pricked the skin of his index finger and touched the other’s, in the traditional boyhood method of becoming “blood brothers.”

“Blood was running out of my finger, and blood was running out of his finger,” Horn recalled. “We decided right there we were never going to surrender.”

They didn’t, and seven decades later, the French government recognized Horn’s accomplishment. In November 2014, Horn was awarded that country’s highest award by the French consulate general while jets staged a flyover in San Antonio.

But Horn wasn’t happy while his buddy was without a similar honor.

Horn’s son, Jason, did the legwork securing the medal for Harris.

“He’s been all over the world chasing that thing down,” Harris’ son, Jackie Harris, told the group. “And we appreciate it. … They’ve got an over-70-year friendship, a bond that can’t be broken - to love each other like brothers.”

The two soldiers have remained close friends while Horn worked a 34-year career with Mobil Oil, now Exxon Mobil, and Harris served 55 years as pastor at Pine Grove Assembly.

Horn testified there really are no atheists in a foxhole.

“You got that right,” he said, after confessing their ground-level conversations were not always about their favorite Bible verses. “I don’t know - about women, I reckon. I didn’t know he was going to be a preacher.”

___

Information from: Longview News-Journal, https://www.news-journal.com

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