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Darien WWII veteran receives service awards

Updated 4:21 pm, Saturday, August 6, 2011

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  • 95-year-old Orlando Francesconi of Darien, Conn. with WWll photo of himself before receiving  medal from Congressman Jim Himes for his service during World War II.  Francesconi, who was born in Stamford, was a second lieutenant during the war and saw service in North Africa and Sicily. He and his wife of 64 years, Nancy LoCicero Francesconi (originally from Stamford), live in the house they built in Darien in 1947. Photo: Dru Nadler / Stamford Advocate Freelance
    95-year-old Orlando Francesconi of Darien, Conn. with WWll photo of himself before receiving medal from Congressman Jim Himes for his service during World War II. Francesconi, who was born in Stamford, was a second lieutenant during the war and saw service in North Africa and Sicily. He and his wife of 64 years, Nancy LoCicero Francesconi (originally from Stamford), live in the house they built in Darien in 1947. Photo: Dru Nadler

 

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Family and friends gathered at the home of a local World War II veteran who received two medals for his service almost seven decades ago.

Orlando Francesconi served in North Africa and Sicily during the war before completing his tour as a second lieutenant in 1944. Francesconi, who is now 95, returned to Darien and married his wife, Nancy, and raised a family.

Congressman Jim Himes (D-4) paid Francesconi a visit to present two awards for his service. The first award was a World War II Victory medal which was given to all veterans who served during the war and the second award was an honorable service lapel button.

"It's important to be able to give these medals because we are starting to lose a lot of our veterans from that war," Himes said.

Republican Selectman Jerry Nielsen was also on hand to present Francesconi with a Town of Darien lapel button.

"I am honored and humbled to be here. Thank you for your service," Nielsen said. "These are well deserved medals and serve as a lasting reminder of your service."

Francesconi, who happily smiled throughout the ceremony, said he was amazed at how many people came to his house to see him receive his medals.

"I didn't expect all of these people but I feel really good and I'm very happy," he said. "I was very much surprised to find out all of this was happening."

Francesconi's wife, Nancy, said she was equally surprised to find out her husband would be receiving the awards so many years after his service.

"I received the call from the Congressman and to me it's just such a wonderful thing that he's receiving these awards," she said. "I never expected this would happen so late in his life but it is wonderful he is being honored in this way."

Two of Francesconi's children, Peter and Lynn Francesconi, were able to attend the ceremony to see their father honored for his service.

Peter said he was very happy to have the opportunity to see his father be recognized for his service because as a kid, Francesconi never talked much about his time in the military.

"To see him being honored is very touching. I know it means a ton to my dad," Peter said. "You can tell it just means a lot to him."

Peter said he was especially glad his dad was getting so much attention because he wasn't the type of person to seek out the limelight.

"It's nice that he's getting the recognition because it's not just about the service but about everything that happened after the war ended. He came back to Darien and married my mom and they've been married for 64 years," he said. "It's just incredible what they do."

Like her brother, Lynn said she was completely surprised to find out her father was receiving two awards for his service.

"I got an email from my mom and that was the first I had heard about it. It's very special because he is very deserving of this and it means a lot to the family," Lynn said. "We were very excited and honored."

It may seem odd that a man who fought for his country nearly seven decades ago is just receiving his due recognition, but Himes said this scenario plays out regularly.

"After any war there is always the clean up and demobilization that takes priority and a lot of the administrative paperwork ends up getting lost," he said. "Everybody tends to leave after the war is over and it can be difficult to track everyone down."

Despite the delay on being able to present the awards, Himes said it is always important to him to be able to meet the veterans and hear their stories.

"For me it's such a thrill to in the company of the men who served and to hear their stories," Himes said. "It was such a different time when they were at war than it is today."