Illinois man earns France's highest honor

Published 03/14 2013 10:23PM

Updated 03/18 2013 03:36PM

STREATOR -- A Central Illinois man is about to receive the highest distinction France can give. It's called the Legion of Honor Medal and it's going to a 92-year old veteran living here. Sophie Nielsen-Kolding has the story.

"World War II Victory Medal."

Of all the World War II honors Joseph Panno has received, he never thought he would get one from another country.

"This is truly overcoming to tell you the truth about it. I never expected anything like this. I don't know if I can handle all this publicity."

This Streator native will receive the Legion of Honor Medal; France's top award created by Napoleon. The country is thanking Panno for his help in freeing it from German control during the second world war. Panno's service started when he was 22-years old.

"I had tried to get into the Air Corps and also the ship repair unit, but they were filled. While I was trying, I got drafted into the Army."

Panno's battalion was sent into French towns where they fought off German soldiers.

"St. Lo was the big one. St. Lo was completely destroyed. We lost as many men there as they did on D-Day."

Panno was already awarded a Bronze Star, given to soldiers for acts of heroism.

"When you're 22, you're ready for almost anything."

Now, at the age of 92, Panno is reliving moments from decades ago.

"It brings back a lot of memories that I thought I had forgotten."

Now Panno will never be forgotten. Panno was one of fourteen people in Illinois to get the award. A formal ceremony is set to take place at Streator City Hall Wednesday when he'll officially receive his Legion of Honor Medal.

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