NEWINGTON - Only a teenager, John Faenza served with the U.S. Army Air Corps in Europe after D-Day. Last Friday, he was presented with the French Knight of the Legion of Honor Medal.
French Consul General Anne-Claire Legendre pinned the medal on Faenza as his family, dignitaries and other veterans looked on during a ceremony held at Cedar Mountain Commons, 3 John H. Stewart Drive. Faenza, 93, and his wife, Lucille, have resided at the independent and assisted living facility since 2014.
Legrendre said it was an honor and a privilege for her to pay tribute to those who fought in France during the Second World War. “He risked his life to liberate my country and the world from Nazism,” Legendre said. The Knight of the Legion of Honor was established in 1812 by Napoleon Bonaparte and is presented to those who helped protect and preserve the French democracy. “Thank you on behalf of my country,” she said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also voiced his thank you to Faenza and all veterans of the “greatest generation.”
“John, how proud we are of all you have done for our nation. You were great, not only during the war but peace,” he said, acknowledging the honoree’s 30 years of service with the Hartford Police Department. Blumenthal presented Faenza with a Certificate of Special Recognition.
The veteran also received a State of Connecticut honorary citation from state Sen. Matt Lesser, who was present, and two honorary challenge coins from the VFW, presented by state VFW Commander James Delancey. He was also acknowledged by the chiefs of police from Newington and Hartford, as well as Hartford HealthCare officials. Several of those who spoke acknowledged their ancestors’ personal ties to World War II, some recalling stories of family members fleeing the Nazis.
Wayne Rioux, Hartford HealthCare veterans liaison, learned of Faenza’s connection with the French Liberation during a “coffee talk” he leads at Cedar Mountain Commons. Veterans share their stories and learn about services and resources during the monthly gatherings. Rioux subsequently applied for the medal, which took a year to process.
Family members said they were particularly moved by the honor. “Dad was proud to serve his country and continued to serve,” said son Tom Faenza, who was accompanied by his sisters and their husbands: Cathy and Stephen Milewski, and Joanne and Rick Koza. Third daughter Betty Lasker and husband Tom live in Florida and were unable to attend.
The honoree and his wife, who have been married for 65 years, were surprised by the ceremony and medal. “I don’t think I deserve it,” Faenza said.
Cedar Mountain Commons, a member of Hartford HealthCare Senior Services, is a not for profit independent and assisted living community. To learn more, visit .