East Lyme WWII veteran honored with French Legion of Honor
East Lyme — After more than seven decades, a local World War II veteran finally received the honor he is due: the Legion of Honor, the top distinction from France.
Staff Sgt. Pasquale "Patsy" DeVivo, who served in the 305th Engineer Combat Battalion, received the medal and was applauded by his family and friends during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Bride Brook Health and Rehabilitation Center in Niantic.
"We love you, and we're very proud of you," said DeVivo's nephew, Michael Shasha of Waterford, who pinned the medal on DeVivo during the ceremony.
DeVivo, now 98, was originally from Waterford and joined the U.S. Army in 1943. After he completed his training, he joined the 305th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 80th Infantry Division.
DeVivo landed on Utah Beach in Normandy in August 1944, said Frank Perry, a volunteer veterans liaison for Bride Brook. After nine or 10 months of fighting through France, DeVivo was awarded the Bronze Star. His medal has an oak leaf cluster to represent that he received the Bronze Star twice, said Perry.
In receiving the French medal on Monday, DeVivo was appointed as chevalier — or knight — in the Legion of Honor.
Perry read aloud a letter from Anne-Claire Legendre, consul general of France in New York, extending her "warmest congratulations" and "deep gratitude" for all DeVivo did for her country.
Napoleon Bonaparte first created the medal in 1802.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, and Charles Lindbergh are among those who also received the French Legion of Honor, said Perry.
During the ceremony, Shasha, DeVivo's nephew, noted that the honor brings to mind all the young men who fought and died in Normandy and across France, and the loss to their parents.
"Uncle is receiving a medal from the government that understands the great loss and sacrifice," he said.
Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, thanked DeVivo for his service. He said he was glad the medal was pinned close to his heart, because veterans' service comes from the heart.
"Congratulations to you and your family, and thank you for your service on behalf of the state of Connecticut, the governor, and everyone who serves in the legislature," he said. "We're very proud to be here today to represent you."
DeVivo served in the Army until January 1946. He married and lived in West Orange, N.J., and worked as a driver for a bus company.
DeVivo expressed gratitude to his family and everybody who came to the ceremony.
"It's an honor," DeVivo said humbly after the ceremony. "The ones that deserve it are the ones that are not here. I appreciate it, and I hope I am worthy."
"I think it's beautiful," he added.