Abel Chennouf, Mohamed Legouad and Imad Ibn Ziaten were among 681 people to be recognised, and were awarded posthumously following a recent French government decree to change the Legion of Honour code.
The three men were Merah’s first victims before he went on to kill three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse in March.
Merah was later killed in a fire fight with security forces at his apartment.
Speaking to France Info radio, Abel Chennouf’s father said that, after being overlooked for the Bastille day and Armistice day commemorations, the recognition his son has now received has renewed his faith in France.
“We’re satisfied and proud to be French. My son wasn’t commemorated on July 14th or November 11th. My wife and I started to doubt our nationality,” he said.
“After all that had happened to our son, just 27 years old and due to be a father, he gets a bullet in the head. We’ve been through a lot. Now I feel very proud. The Republic has pulled itself together again. Thank you.”
Other honourees include 87 medal winners at the London Olympics and Paralympics, the 2012 Nobel prize for physics laureate Serge Haroche, and the former chief executive of Renault, Louis Schweitzer.