Local vet earns France's top military award

By Erika Mahoney

July 25, 2013 Updated Jul 25, 2013 at 12:02 AM EDT

Village of Sidney, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Frank Delello, a 93-year-old veteran from Bainbridge, will be awarded the highest honor bestowed by France for his service on French territory during WWII.

The French Legion of Honor is the country's highest distinction for civil or military service.

It took Delello's daughter more than a year to make sure her father was eligible, a process that began in 1943.

Delello was drafted with two of his eight brothers, but he was the only one chosen to go overseas.

"I was just madder than the devil," said Delello. "I had just been married, something only like six months. Jeepers, that really set me off because we knew each other since we were 8."

After spending time in England, he landed in France during the second wave of Normandy.

"I was in for 11 months of combat," Frank Delello said. "Three days of those 11 months, I was in line with long distance firing."

Delello said it was a miracle he wasn't hit.

"There was firing everywhere."

But beyond those few details, Delello keeps the ugly side of war to himself.

"War is not pretty," said Pamela Delello, daughter. "He saw his best friend get shot down. The guys that didn't come back. He's just very private. He's told me about some of the funny things, if there are funny things. But all in all, it's the time he wants to put behind him."

On Wednesday night, the Bainbridge community came together to celebrate Delello's honor.

Assemblyman Clifford Crouch, R-122nd, presented Delello with several awards.

One funny story he did share amidst the dozens of friends and family members who showed up involved a pocketful of money, on the eve of Normandy.

"You know, funny thing. I never played cards much, hardly at all. They wanted to play poker. 'Ohh, I'll play.' So I got in with them. I cleaned them out. I was never so lucky in my life. I won something like $900. So jeepers. And that morning, the sirens went off. We were supposed to head to the beach. I said, wow, here I got $900 in pocket and heading into (laugh) Normandy."

Luckily, it all worked out. The commander took it and mailed it to his wife in Bainbridge.

Delello said it's his favorite memory, just one of millions of war stories out there; stories that live on with honors like his.

"It means something. I mean good grief, not that many people get those things. And I think that's quite a deal."

His daughter said it will represent all veterans who have given their time and who sacrificed their lives.

In November, a medal will be delivered to the French Consulate in New York City.

"My father represents all the veterans," said Pamela Delello. "The ones that never came home, the ones that passed away, the ones that are here now, and the future ones in the wars we are fighting now."

The war didn't define Delello, but it shaped who he is -- a loving husband of more than 60 years, a father of two, and now, the proud recipient of a top military award.