CONNEAUT — Albert Kosiba, of Warren, is pushing 100 years of age, but quickly made his way to the microphone after French Consul Guillame Lacroix pinned the French Legion of Honor medal to his shirt.
Kosiba was one of five World War II veterans who were honored for their roles in the liberation of France on Saturday morning at D-Day Conneaut 2019.
"The "Legion of Honor" is France's highest distinction. It was created by Napoleon in 1802 to render acknowledgement ... (to the) men and women who accomplished deeds for France and the French people. This is not only for French citizens, but it is only for heroes," Lacroix said.
Lacroix described the importance of American leadership in the liberation of France. "Every French family has a story to tell of perserverance, sacrifice and blood," he said.
The debt France owes to the Americans will never be repayed," he said.
Kosiba was the only honoree to go to the microphone. "This is an honor and a privilege to be here. Freedom isn't free. Let's think of those who should be here with us; who are not," he said.
The other four honorees included Claude Koon of Salem; Daniel Buzek of New Franklin; Paul Arnone of Jamestown, New York; Richard Wilczewski of Erie and William Cook, deceased in 2018, was also honored posthumously.
Lacroix honored each recipient with a short war time biography before pinning the medal to their shirt and embracing them. He talked about Wilczewski's arrival off the beaches of Normandy in a larger vessel that could not immediately go ashore. "You saw a horrific scene," Lacroix said of what Wilczewski saw as he began helping transport 101 casualties in 51 different trips between France and England.
A variety of area dignitaries and people representing national groups were a part of the ceremony that was witnessed by hundreds of people at the pavilion at Conneaut Township Park.
State Rep. John Patterson thanked the veterans. "A great deal hung in the balance on June 6 (1942)," he said. Patterson urged those in attendance to take up the urgent task of fighting for justice that these veterans exemplified.
"Each of us is made more perfect when we humbly put others needs before our own," he said.
Harry Miller, a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam shared his thoughts on the importance of patriotism. He said the military adheres to the importance of duty honor and country and shared a story about Eric Woods who, during World War II, was separated from his unit and defended himself to the very end.
He said Woods was eventually found with nine dead Germans surrounding him in Belgium where the local people buried him and later made his family aware of his bravery. He said they also built a monument to Woods that stands to this day.
One of the more amazing people in attendance was 103-year-old Al Klusiewicz of Erie who received the "Legion of Honor" two years ago, but comes back annually at the insistence of his son. "He likes it Al said of his son Tim.
The amazing thing about Al Klusiewicz is that he served in the horse cavalry in 1934 and did a variety of security details for then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Tim Klusiewicz said. He said he was in the Reserves for three years and then called back up for active duty when World War II started.