WASHINGTON – French President Nicholas Sarkozy presented the Legion of Honor to a Maine man who was a D-Day hero during a ceremony at the French Embassy in Washington Tuesday.

Charles Shay of Indian Island received one of seven Legion of Honor awards to be presented by Sarkozy during the ceremony, said Severin Beliveau, honorary French consul for the state who attended the ceremony. The award dates back to Napoleon.

Shay, an 83-year-old elder of the Penobscot Indian Nation, saw action at Omaha Beach and holds a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars, Beliveau said.

The Army medic’s Silver Star citation says Shay “repeatedly plunged into the treacherous sea and carried critically wounded men to safety.”

Members of the Maine congressional delegation are planning to attend Tuesday’s ceremony, which comes a day before the French leader is to address a joint session of Congress.

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine attended the ceremony. Snowe called the award a “tremendous honor that speaks volumes about his exceptional military service and extraordinary sacrifice rendered on behalf of our country as well as our long-standing ally, France.”

Shay is a descendant of the third Baron de St. Castin, a French nobleman who married the daughter of Penobscot Chief Madockawando in 1670, and Joseph Orono, a Penobscot Indian chief for whom a Maine town is named.

Shay stayed in Europe after World War II, but returned to Indian Island in 2003.

On Wednesday, Sarkozy plans to accompany Bush on a tour Mount Vernon, home of President George Washington, and address a joint session of Congress.

Sarkozy will work to affirm Europe’s right to shape policy debates on some of the most challenging problems facing the world, including climate change, Nicholas Dungan, president of the French-American Foundation, said.

in an interview just before meeting with Sarkozy at a reception at the French Embassy.

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