A World War II veteran from Belle Vernon received France’s highest honor on Saturday for his contribution in freeing the occupied country.

Frank Delia was surrounded by family, dignitaries, fellow veterans and staff at Country Care Manor in Fayette City, where he lives, for a ceremony to receive the French Legion of Honour award.

Frank Steck, a veteran of the U.S. Army and a member of the Perryopolis American Legion, has been finding veterans who qualified for the highest French ceremony of merit for military and civilians, and has located about nine veterans in the region who qualified for the award.

Steck said the award is presented to individuals who risked their lives during World War II to fight on French soil and territory in at least three major campaigns in the liberation of France. Recipients must maintain military decorations like the Bronze Star, and Delia earned five with three being earned in France.

“Believe me, only a small number of individuals receive this honor,” Steck said, adding that those who receive the honor are then made a Knight of the Legion of Honour.

Delia’s son and daughter, Gene Delia and Linda Delia, stood by their father’s side.

While Frank Delia has difficulty hearing, his daughter said she believes her father understood what an incredible honor was being bestowed upon him.

“I think the good Lord’s letting him know that this is his recognition,” she said.

Gene Delia said a newspaper announcement about his father’s 102nd birthday prompted Steck to contact him, asking about his father’s service.

The process was an eye-opening experience for Gene Delia.

“I never realized his total involvement in the war,” he said.

Steck said he started the process in February, and it was completed by November, delayed by COVID-19.

State Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Bullskin Township, said it was quite the honor to stand with Delia for the ceremony.

“I’m trying to think of all the great things I can say, but there’s not much I can say, because he’s done all the great work for us,” Stefano said. “I’m so proud to be here today, to be present for this award.”

Stefano also presented Delia with a certificate of appreciation on behalf of the Pennsylvania Senate; Delia also received a certificate on behalf of the Fayette County commissioners.

Delia received his medal from Jean Dominique Marie Le Garrec, the French consulate stationed in Pittsburgh, who said Americans and French don’t speak the same language, but share the same values of liberty and freedom that they have fought side by side to protect.

“Today’s ceremony honors the soldiers who contributed to this victory,” Le Garrec said of France’s liberation. “Today it’s my privilege to bestow this medal to Frank in the name of the president of France.”

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