Following the war, Rader completed his accounting degree at the City University of New York and became a certified public accountant, retiring in 1991 from Israeloff, Trattner & Company, with offices in Garden City and Manhattan. He did not meet Hodges, the man who saved his life, until 2001, when Hodges’s alma mater, Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., brought together men from the exchange for a documentary that the university produced about Hodges, who died in 2004.
In 2007, French President Nicholas Sarkozy awarded Bernard Rader the French Legion of Honor Medal, France’s highest civilian honor, for his bravery in battle. French officials learned of Rader’s sacrifices when he and his wife approached the French consulate in New York to inquire about erecting a plaque on Isle de Groix to thank the French people for the kindness that they showed American prisoners during the war. Often, Bernard said, the French sneaked small bits of food to the Americans when they went outside the German prisoner camp to fetch water from a nearby well.
Rader, the father of three and grandfather of seven, was allowed to bring eight family members to the French embassy. Sarkozy kissed Rader on both cheeks, as is the French custom, after he pinned the Legion of Honor Medal on his lapel.
“It was absolutely the most wonderful, exciting thing to happen,” June Rader said.
The Kennedy students had many questions for Rader about his military service and his personal life. Above all else, Rader implored the young people to give of themselves. “You guys have to do something for our country,” he said. “Give two years for peace, Peace Corps, the military, Habitat for Humanity.”