Howland vet shares message
By RAYMOND L. SMITH
CONNEAUT — At 98, Albert J. Kosiba likely was the oldest of the five men who received the French Legion d’honneur Medal during the D-Day 75th anniversary ceremony on Saturday, but he certainly was not the quietest.
Moments after he was pinned with the highest medal the French government provides for service to the nation, Kosiba, instead of turning to sit down, walked over to the microphone to remind the hundreds sitting on the field that those who lost their lives were the true heroes because they made the ultimate sacrifice.
“I am elated and extremely pleased to receive this medal,” Kosiba said afterward, “I hope young people hearing these stories realize there has been a price for freedom that has been paid.”
Kosiba emphasized his love for country and his hope that people respect one another and treat each other with a level of civility and love.
Kosiba served with the 740th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion as a chief radar operator. He landed on Omaha Beach in early July 1944.
The unit set up camp five miles north of St. Lo, near a 9th Air Force airfield and followed the air group providing airfield protection as the battle front advanced toward Paris.
After Paris was liberated, the unit provided air space protection southeast of the city. As the advance continued, the 740th relocated to the west and entered Belgium, aiming their guns at more than 8100 V1 Buzz Bombs bombarding Antwerp.
Kosiba participated in campaigns in Normandy, Northern France and in the Rhineland.
Sgt. Kosiba was awarded the European-African-Middle Eastern Medal with four Bronze Battle Stars, the American Campaign medal, the World War II Victory Medal and the Good Conduct Medal during his service.
The others receiving the Legion d’honneur Medal were Paul Armon, a U.S. Navy signalman; Daniel Buzek, a machinist mate third class; Claude J. Koon, a U.S. Army technician sergeant; and Richard L. Wilczewski, a U.S. Navy Ships Cook. Another veteran, William H. Cook Jr., who was with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regimen, 101st Airborne Division, was scheduled to receive the award but died prior to the ceremony.
Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General of France to the Midwest, said the Legion d’honneur Medal was first established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and is given to those who have provided exceptional service to the country. It is France’s highest award.
“It is not only for French citizens, but for its heroes,” Lacroix said. “We are here to honor our heroes and these are them. They are part of America’s Greatest Generation. This generation changed everything forever in our country.”
“France owes America a great debt that can never be repaid,” Lacroix said.
Kosiba, a Howland resident, was extremely proud to receive the recognition from the French government and was supported by at least three generations of his family, including his grandson, U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Thomas, a pilot.
“I am proud of him,” Thomas said. “We were told many stories about his time in the military as we were growing up. I’ve always been inspired by my grandfather.”
The award ceremony was part of Conneaut’s annual D-Day program at which a re-enactment of the D-Day invasion was staged on the beach at Conneaut Township Park.