Milford veteran honored by France for World War II service

MILFORD – More than 70 years after Rosario LoCicero’s 29th Infantry Division landed in France the country honored him with its highest decoration, the Legion of Honor.

During a ceremony in Milford March 20, the French Consul General from Boston, Fabien Fieschi, thanked LoCicero for his “outstanding contributions” during World War II and reminded everyone in the function room at Ledgewood Bay of the strong ties between France and the United States, based on common values of independence, freedom and democracy.

LoCicero’s service “reminds us of the decisive role of the United States” that enabled Europe to throw off an evil dictatorship, he said.

The Army’s 29th Infantry Division was among the first wave of troops ashore during the landings in Normandy, France, the operation in June of 1944 that began the invasion of German-occupied western Europe.

The Legion of Honor is the oldest and highest honor that the French government can bestow and Locicero was awarded the Chevalier, or Knight, version.

LoCicero, now 90, was only 19 years old and exhibited extraordinary courage, Fieschi said.

Among the first five Americans to enter Versailles, he fought at Avranches, Laval, LeMans, Chartres and Verdun in France, then in Germany at Metz Kaisre-Lautern and Mainz, reaching Wiesbadan before Victory in Europe Day, according to “Milford in World War II,” and his unit was awarded a unit citation for meritorious service.

“The history of Europe since World War II shows that it was not in vain,” said the Consul General. “France and Germany have become close partners.”

When it was his turn to speak, LoCicero asked all veterans in the audience to stand for applause and accepted the honor in “memory of all who couldn’t make it here.”

“We are all dying off,” he said the World War II soldiers, and said luck was a critical factor in his survival.

Later his daughter, Kathy LoCicero Vanaria, of Marlborough, Mass., said she was encouraged to seek the honor by a friend, a retired Naval commander, who had wondered why he hadn’t received the Legion of Honor, since he fit all the criteria.

Her father’s unit had a 95 percent casualty rate and he hadn’t wanted to receive the honor, Vanaria said.

“Finally, we said, ‘Receive it on behalf of all those who can’t’.”

LoCicero is a Milford native, and the event was organized by Carolina Lambalot, who chaired the rededication committee for the town’s World War II Memorial last year.

The Milford VFW Color Guard was there, along with several town officials. Milford Selectman and state Sen. Gary Daniels read a resolution from the New Hampshire Senate congratulating LoCicero and offering gratitude for his service.

LoCicero’s pastor, Rev. John Keegan, of St. Patrick Church in Milford offered a prayer.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or
kcleveland@cabinet.com.