French honor 34 vets
WEST POINT, N.Y. — Almost 70 years after Joseph Federico was wounded and captured in the hedgerows of France, he was personally thanked Friday by that country's government during a heartfelt ceremony at the Military Academy.
The 88-year-old Belvidere, N.J., resident was among 34 World War II veterans decorated as knights of France's Legion of Honor in a ceremony leading up to the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings that began June 6, 1944. Many honorees had white hair and stooped postures and rose slowly to have the medals pinned to their chests. But, to a man, they said the honor was welcome seven decades after their service.
“I'm just lucky that I'm here to get this, you know, because it was awfully tough for all of us,” said Federico, who spent two months recovering from a shrapnel wound in his leg as a prisoner of war. “I lost good friends from my company, and it was terrible.”
Federico wore his new decoration on his blazer, just below his Purple Heart.
Consul General of France Bertrand Lortholary said it was important to show their gratitude at West Point in front of the cadets who will make up the next generation of American officers.
“Seventy years have passed ... and yet the memory of the sacrifice of American soldiers remains more vivid than ever in the villages of France — in Normandy, in Provence, in the Ardennes, whose cemeteries bear witness to war's cost in life,” Lortholary said. “I want to tell you that your example gives us inspiration.”
Francis Cocca, 90, said: “It's beyond words almost. ... I came home. I had one medal. I put it in a box and forgot it. Now look at this!”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
- Medicare finances improve as health care inflation slows, trustees say
- Deal to improve veterans’ health care costs $17B
- Cedar Point attraction mishap injures 2 riders
- Stoned volunteers test drug, alcohol effect on driving
- Ebola only a plane ride away from U.S.
- Cellphone users can soon declare freedom from wireless carriers
- Social Security’s $300M IT project doesn’t work
- Law enforcement, intelligence agencies want to ‘like’ you on social media