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France honors local WWII veteran

posted April 12, 2015 12:00 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Chris Vetter. bio | email

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    Staff photo by Steve Kinderman | Enlarge
    - World War II veteran Donald Brill, 92, receives the French Legion of Honor medal from Mark Wilson, right, commandant of the Wisconsin Veterans Home at Chippewa Falls in a ceremony on Saturday at VFW Club 305, 1300 Starr Ave. Brill's daughter, Rebecca McClintock of Glenmoore, Pa., watches during the event where Brill also received a U.S. Bronze Star.

An area World War II veteran was honored Saturday, as he was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal and the Bronze Star for his service in France.

Donald Brill, 92, was joined by 60 friends and family at the VFW Hall 305 on Starr Avenue.

“It’s overwhelming. It’s fantastic,” Brill said as he shook hands before the ceremony.

After receiving the medals, Brill said the awards truly belong to the soldiers who fought alongside him who didn’t make it back, and that he thinks of them every day.

Brigadier General Mark Anderson of Madison presented Brill with the Bronze Star.

“This is very rare — it’s the first one I’ve done, a presentation of a Bronze Star medal to a World War II veteran,” Anderson said. “Regrettably, a lot of World War II veterans never had the opportunity to get this honor.”

Susan Brill, Donald’s daughter, said her father learned a year ago he would be getting the French honor. She fought back tears as she talked about what an emotional day this was for her father and the family.

“It’s amazing to see the love and pride people have for my dad,” Susan Brill said. “It’s a great day. This is such an exciting event.”

Dave Zien, a Vietnam war veteran and former state senator, said Brill is well-deserving of the honor.

“He’s just stellar,” Zien said. “He’s an example and an inspiration to be modeled after. This is such a joyous day.”

John Brill, Donald’s son, said his father was always “a patriot first,” who made sure that his children knew what he and his fellow soldiers accomplished.

Brill served in the U.S. Army from Dec. 19, 1942, to Dec. 26, 1945. He was partially disabled with a back injury when a jeep rolled over on him.

Brill was born in Elk Mound, and he taught industrial arts in the area before later developing vocational technical schools in the state. He lived in Madison for many years but moved to Eau Claire after retiring.

Vetter can be reached at 715-723-0303 or at chris.vetter@ecpc.com.