SEMBACH KASERNE, Germany -- The Regional Health Command Europe commanding general received France's highest award during a ceremony Jan. 7 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany.

Maj. Gen. Patrick Godart, deputy surgeon general of the French Armed Forces, presented the Legion of Honor to Brig. General Norvell V. Coots on behalf of the president of the French Republic. The Legion of Honor, an award originally created in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, is a military and civil order of merit that is conferred without regard to birth or religion provided that anyone admitted swears to uphold liberty and equality.

"From the very beginning, Napoleon decorated, in his own words, both 'Soldiers and scholars.' From the start, the marshals of the empire and veterans of the revolutionary campaigns thus stood side by side with outstanding members of civil society," Godart said. "The Legion of Honor is an inestimable source of pride for the recipients and their close relations, and an example of good citizenship made public."

Godart explained that approximately 400 non-French men and women receive the award each year. Foreigners may receive the Legion of Honor if they have served France or advanced the causes that it defends.

He went on to say that Coots' nomination for the award "…was obvious to us since you are a fervent promoter of friendship and cooperation between France and the United States."

"As you once mentioned to me, your uncle, who was also an Army doctor, died in combat in France during the First World War," Godart said. "This link and your passion for military history explain your frequent visits to Lorraine where you have close contacts with charity associations such as Le Levrier Blanc of Nancy and the Lorraine-Etats-Unis association of Metz that promote friendship between our two countries. You are a true Francophile."

Godart also mentioned Coots' longtime relationship with France's Defense Medical Services, which he said have made the relationship between French and U.S. military medical organizations more dynamic.

"You never miss an opportunity to welcome French officials and you have worked to strengthen existing links within the Office of the U.S. Army Surgeon General," Godart said. "This (friendship) has led to close cooperation at the operational level in Afghanistan because you were in close contact during your tour with the successive medical surgical teams at the French hospital at KAIA and contributed to ongoing and productive exchange.

"You have always welcomed any new proposal that is part of this framework," Godart said. "You have always maintained a very positive attitude toward France's Defense Medical Services. Your consistent friendly relations with our country have played a significant role."

After the award presentation, Coots expressed his gratitude in both French and English.

"It is difficult to put into words exactly what an honor this is for me to receive this award from the Republic of France," Coots said. "It is an extremely high honor, one I will cherish for the rest of my life. I owe a debt of gratitude to all of the Soldiers and civilians who have assisted me in my efforts at partnership and interoperability with the French Medical Service from my days at Walter Reed, in Afghanistan, at the Pentagon, and here at RHCE. You have all helped to make this award possible.

"This is simply an unbelievable day for me, receiving an award created by Napoleon himself, and joining an incredible list of Soldiers, statesmen and other luminaries who have received this award before me."

Regional Health Command Europe meets the healthcare needs of America's Warriors, Family members, and other beneficiaries serving in U.S. Army Europe, U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, and U.S. Central Command areas of responsibility. RHCE's focus is influencing health and wellness, improving readiness and saving the lives of those we are privileged to serve, through our numerous Army Medical, Dental, Public Health and Veterinary Treatment Facilities in Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Turkey, and the UK. Our capacity and capabilities are augmented through partner providers at more than 40 Host Nation hospitals.