By Kristin Bednarski
Three local veterans received the French Legion of Honor Medal Feb. 12 for their service during World War II.
John Dinka, Don Fairbanks and Carl “Fuzzy” Sims received the medal during the ceremony.
“It was a very moving experience,” Frank Morrow, a senior veteran service officer for the Clermont County Veterans’ Service Commission, said. “These three guys were very emotional for getting recognition from a foreign government.”
Morrow said the French Legion of Honor Medal is awarded to Americans who fought for the liberation of France during World War II.
He said all three men were involved in the liberation, either on planes or on the ground in France.
According to the Veterans’ Service Commission, the Legion of Honor recognition was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to recognize extraordinary contributions to the country, and it is one of France’s highest distinctions.
“It was unbelievable to have three at the same time from Clermont County,” Morrow said about the men receiving the honor.
Don Fairbanks, one of the recipients who served in the United States Air Force, said he was on a B-24 bomber plane during the time of the liberation in France.
“Our job was to supply them with whatever they needed,” Fairbanks said about the mission.
Fairbanks said he was shocked to receive the French Legion of Honor Medal.
“It was a big surprise and a big honor,” he said.
Morrow said Colonel Troy Kok, traveled to Clermont County from Ft. Knox to award the medals to the men.
He said Anne Marie O’Brien, a French woman who was liberated during the war and whose husband was an American Army general, also spoke during the ceremony and thanked the men for their service.
The ceremony was held at the Tri-State Warbird Museum in Batavia.
“The setting for this event was absolutely perfect,” Morrow said. “We were surrounded by World War II planes.”
The museum features a variety of historical aircraft including a P-51 D Mustang, which was on display during the ceremony.