Aiken man to receive France's highest honor

Kay Lyell remembers growing up near Daniel Field, where her father would order her to hit the deck when planes passed overhead.

It was the byproduct of time spent fighting in World War II, where her father, Richard Wayne Jolley, was a private first class in Company K of the 119th Infantry Regiment, 50th Division.

“It was a very traumatic time for him,” Lyell said. “But it’s probably the single most important event in his life.”

More than 67 years after the war ended, the 88-year-old Aiken resident will be bestowed with France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honor award, in a ceremony in Charleston, S.C., on Monday.

The National Order of the Legion of Honor, founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, was created to recognize “eminent services rendered to the French Republic,” according to the Web site of the Consulate General of France in Atlanta. Recipients are designated by the French president.

“It’s really an honor to receive it,” said Richard Wayne Jolley, who will be honored with six other veterans, including Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, the former South Caro­li­na governor and U.S. senator.

After enlisting in the Army in Au­gust 1944 at age 18, Jolley spent a great deal of his time fighting in the European Theater. He arrived at Normandy five weeks after the D-Day invasion and participated in the Battle of the Bulge before suffering a wound from flying shrapnel.

“I remember him standing in the bathroom and seeing what I called ‘a big hole in his back,’” son Rick Jolley said.

Having served from August 1944 to March 1945, Jolley estimates that he spent at least 13 months in the hospital because of injury.

“I left the war in a hospital,” he said with a laugh.

His injuries left him disabled in the left arm, but he contends that he could break 80 on the golf course just a decade ago.

Though he didn’t talk about the war much in his earlier years, Jolley has spent the past few years completing memoirs from the war with his son.

“He would type for a long time and I would do some editing before he would write more,” Rick Jolley said. “Even though the memoirs aren’t published, it gives family and friends a unique opportunity to understand his service.”

Jolley has kept his previous military honors, which include a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, in shadow boxes that were put together by his late wife, Ruth.

“I’ll probably move those boxes aside and put my latest award in a box next to them,” he said. “It’ll be something to show my grandchildren for years to come.”

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