Zahratka to receive French Legion of Honor 

Arnold “Buck” J. Zahratka, 96, will receive the highly-regarded French Legion of Honor in a special ceremony on March 23 at 10 a.m. at the Montgomery American Legion Post 79. The public is welcome.

Established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the French Legion of Honor is one of the most famous military decorations in the world. French ministers are responsible for identifying potential honorees. It is the highest distinction that France can bestow upon those who have achieved remarkable deeds for France.

Zahratka will become a member of the National Order of the Legion of Honor.

Consul General of France in Chicago Yannick Tagand will be on hand to award the special honor on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron. Tagand protects the interests of French residents and tourists in 13 Midwestern states, and he advances partnerships between France and the United States.

He will arrive with chauffeur Noureddine Tayazime.

Zahratka was born Aug. 31, 1925, to Tom and Bessie Zahratka. He attended St. Raphael Catholic School, then Montgomery High School. At 18, he was drafted into the Army in October 1943 and served in Europe, including in the Battle of the Bulge.

He is a 70-year member of The American Legion Post 79 and a Charter member of the Montgomery VFW Post 5340 since December 23, 1947, over 76 years. He has volunteered in many church and community activities, and was the Kolacky Days Grand Marshall with his wife Gladys in 2020. He is well-respected in the Montgomery community.

After the war, Zahratka worked as a mechanic for several years before opening his own business, Buck’s Cities Service. After five years, he sold it and opened Buck’s Tavern, operating during the early 1960s.

He sold it in the late 1960s and began working as a heavy equipment operator for Alexander Construction in Apple Valley. After 30 years, he retired, pursuing hobbies of fishing, snowmobiling, motorcycling, and driving his Model T.

He married Gladys in February 1949. They had three children, Keith, Linda and Arnold. In January 2022, Gladys died of complications from Parkinson’s Disease. Arnold has been blessed with six grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
About the medal
Since its inception, the medal consists of a five-armed “Maltese Asterisk” enameled in white, joined with branches of laurel and oak. At the center of the star, there is a medallion representing: on the front side, the symbol of the Republic with the inscription “République Française” and on the other side, a flag and a banner intertwining one another with the circular inscription “Honneur et Patrie.” The ribbon is in red moiré silk.

The president of the French Republic is the Grand Master of the Order and appoints all other members of the order — by convention, on the advice of the government. A chancery and a council of the order manage the order. They are located in Paris.


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