97-year-old Illinoisan earns French Legion of Honor knighthood
Howard Keskitalo, a 97-year-old World War II veteran, has finally earned the prestigious distinction of knight in the French Legion of Honor thanks to the efforts of Karen Redding and Wesley Yi of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA).
The award is the highest honor given by France to non-citizens.
Keskitalo served in the Army Air Force in 1944 as a B-17 navigator for the 388th Bomb Group and the 563rd Bomb Squadron. He flew 35 missions and was involved in four battles and campaigns.
“Mr. Keskitalo is a testament to the bravery and courage that was needed during WW II,” IDVA Director Erica Jeffries said in a press release.
Keskitalo has also earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal for his service.
Redding discovered Keskitalo had not received the Legion of Honor, and she and Yi worked with the French consulate to confirm his eligibility and process his ward. He received the honor, presented by Deputy Consul General of France Frédéric Cholé, in a recent ceremony in Batavia.
“I am so proud of Karen and Wesley for working so hard to make sure our Illinois Hero, Mr. Keskitalo is receiving this high honor,” Jeffries said in the press release.