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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 21, 2009

Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs hosts ceremony honoring local World War II Veterans
Six Illinois Veterans, five other Midwest Veterans awarded with Legion of Honor Medal from French Authorities

CHICAGO – The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs hosted a Legion of Honor Medal ceremony for 11 World War II Veterans at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago today. The French authorities presented the Legion of Honor Medal to six Illinois Veterans and five other Midwestern Veterans who helped liberate France during World War II.  The Legion of Honor Medal is the highest honor that France can bestow upon those who have accomplished remarkable deeds for France.

“We are extraordinarily proud of our Illinois Veterans and of all the Veterans from the Midwest who are being honored today,” said Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Dan Grant. “Their bravery and sacrifice to liberate France during World War II is absolutely befitting this distinguished award.”

In an effort to recognize the outstanding deeds accomplished by American soldiers during WWII, the French Republic began awarding its highest distinction to American WWII Veterans in 2004.  Created by Emperor Napoleon in 1802, the Legion of Honor Medal recognizes services of highest achievement rendered to France. It is a symbol of gratitude for the honoree’s invaluable contribution to the liberation of France during World War II.

“Thanks to their courage, to our American friends and allies, France has been living in peace for the past six decades,” said Jean-Baptiste de Boissiere, Consul General of France in Chicago. “We shall never forget.”

Here are the biographies of the honorees:

ILLINOIS
Mr. Donald E. Casey, Chicago, IL: Enlisted in October 1943 as a second lieutenant in the 379th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force Division. He participated in the bombardments of many German installations at Dijon/Longvic, Sottevast Mesnil au Val, Metz-Frescaty, Marquise Mimoyecques, Creil et Coulommiers. For these achievements, the U.S. government presented him with prestigious awards including The Air Medal with three Oak Clusters and the Distinguished Flying Cross.    
Mr. Sydney De Ruiter, Oak Lawn, IL: Enlisted in March 1943 as a Rifleman, then an assistant squad leader and finally as squad leader of the 137th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Infantry Division. He participated in several campaigns of the invasion of Normandy, Northern France and Rhineland. For these achievements, the U.S. government presented him with prestigious awards: the Purple Heart Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and the European, African, Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with three Bronze Service Stars.
 
Mr. Joseph William Ernst, Arcola, IL: Enlisted in March 1942 as a pilot of navigation in the U.S. Navy serving specifically on the USS Caney, USS Cavalier, and USS Audacious. He participated in the invasion of Normandy on Omaha Beach.  For his achievements, the U.S. government presented him with prestigious awards: the Combat Action Ribbon, European, African, Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with one Bronze Star, a Navy Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal, the Navy Discharge Button and the Honorable Service Lapel Pin.
 
Mr. Herman Griesenbrock, Macomb, IL: Enlisted in September 1943 as Rifleman in the 378th Infantry Regiment of the 95th Infantry Division. He participated in many campaigns including Northern France, Ardennes, and the Rhineland and was injured in France on Nov. 15, 1944. For these achievements, the U.S. government presented him with prestigious awards: The Purple Heart Medal with an Oak Leaf Cluster, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the European, African, Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with three Bronze Battle Stars, the Good Conduct Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
 
Mr. Merrit A. King, Geneva, IL: Enlisted in April 1941 in the headquarters of the SOS detachment. He participated in several campaigns in Northern France. For these achievements, the U.S. government presented him with prestigious awards:  The Purple Heart, European, African, and Middle Eastern Service Ribbon, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.

Mr. Lee Salberg, Morton Grove, IL:  Enlisted in February 1943 in the 179th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division. He participated in several campaigns including, North Africa, Italy and the invasion of Southern France where he was injured. For these achievements, the U.S. government presented him with prestigious awards: Purple Heart Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Good Conduct Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, and the European, African, Middle Eastern Theater Medal.
 
IOWA
Mr.  Glen J. Dill, Iowa City, Iowa: Enlisted in October 1942 as a sergeant in the Headquarters Company of the 2nd Regiment ARTC. He participated in the invasion of Normandy as well as several campaigns in Northern France. For his achievements, the U.S. government presented him with prestigious awards: the Purple Heart Medal, The Silver Star Medal, the Good Conduct Ribbon, and the European, African, Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with two Bronze Stars.
 
INDIANA
Mr. Paul Hilderbrand, Bedford, Ind: Enlisted in January 1943 as a technician in the 735th Tank Battalion, He participated in several campaigns of the invasion of Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. For these achievements, the U.S. government presented him with prestigious awards: the American Theater Ribbon, the Good Conduct Medal, and the European, African, Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with five Bronze Service Stars.

Mr. Joseph J. Kish, Highland, Ind: Enlisted in October 1939 as a soldier in the Headquarters Battery of the 5th Infantry Division.  He participated in several campaigns of the invasion of Normandy, and Northern France specifically helping liberate the cities of Chartres, Angers and Reims. For these achievements, the U.S. government presented him with prestigious awards: the Bronze Star Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the European, African, Middle Eastern Theater Medal, and the American Defense Service Medal.
 
KENTUCKY
Mr. Evan E.  Voss, New London, KY: Enlisted in February 1943 in the 142nd Infantry Regiment of the 36th Infantry Division. He participated in several campaigns of the invasion of Southern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe as well as many battles in Italy. For these achievements, the U.S. government presented him with prestigious awards: The Silver Star Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, four Purple Heart Medals, the Good Conduct Medal, and the European, African, Middle Eastern Theater Medal, Distinguished Service Cross and your unit received a Presidential Unit Citation.
 
WISCONSIN
Mr. Harry C. Menz of Janesville, WI: Enlisted in June 1944 as a Rifleman in the 137th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Infantry Division. He participated in many campaigns including Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe. For his achievements, the U.S. government presented him with prestigious awards: the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Good Conduct Medal, the World War II Victory Medal, in 2003 a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, and the European, African, Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with three Bronze Battle  Stars.



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