PEORIA HEIGHTS (WEEK) – Gene Neeley left the armed services in the early 1960’s, but he’s still being recognized for his service decades later.
Neeley, 94, was awarded France’s Legion of Honor at a ceremony in Peoria Heights Friday. It was in recognition of his efforts to liberate France during World War II.
“Seventy-five years ago Mr. Neeley stormed the beaches of Perros and changed the destiny of my country forever,” Guillaume Lacroix, France’s consul general to the Midwest, said.
“I never thought that I would ever receive such a high award and have so many people here to help me celebrate this,” Neeley said. “It is a great, great honor.”
Neeley was stationed in several areas in Europe between 1943-45. He recently visited Normandy with other WWII vets to observe the 75th anniversary of D-Day, although he was not part of that operation.
Neeley also works with the Greater Peoria Honor Flight to recruit veterans to go on the day-long trip. There’s an Honor Flight on October 8, and you might see Neeley at Peoria’s airport that night welcoming the vets back from their day in D.C. with hundreds of friends, family and strangers from around Peoria.