GREENWICH, Conn. -- Nearly 70 years after the end of World War II, a Greenwich man received his medals for his service in that war in North Africa and Europe.
With two sons, a nephew and a grandson looking on, Vincent Meli, 92, was handed the medals - literally - on a silver platter by fellow Greenwich resident, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
In a Monday morning ceremony at Parsonage Cottage where he lives Meli said little but was clearly moved by the event.
"I'm glad I am alive," he joked after receiving the medals. The 30 people in attendance cheered for him and thanked him for his service.
In brief comments after the ceremony, Meli said that when he returned home from serving overseas he wasn't that interested in receiving medals.
"I never thought about them anymore. I tried to forget about the war, you know," he said.
Blumenthal said a grateful country wants to remember Meli and all the other veterans who have served the country so well.
"Many of you may not have known that you had living with you a real war hero, someone who fought in World War II. A member of the greatest generation who risked his life so that we would be free today," Blumenthal said.
"He was deserving of medals that should have been awarded long ago. Like so many of the greatest generation, he came back and he didn't really care about the medals. He had done his duty. He fought the war. He had kept the world free along with so many others who have died since then."
Blumenthal said Meli's humility shouldn't keep him from receiving his medals.
Family members approached his office a little more than six months ago about Meli's medals, Blumenthal said.
Meli served in the U.S. Army as a private first class, operating heavy equipment and driving trucks during World War II. He served honorably throughout campaigns in Central Europe, Northern France and the Rhineland.
He received the Army Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Bronze Star Attachment, the World War II Victory Medal, the Marksman Badge and Rifle Bar, and the Honorable Service World War II lapel pin.
Joining him at the event were his sons Vincent Meli Jr. and Charles Meli; his grandson, Alexander Meli, Vincent Jr.'s son; and a nephew, Rich Wincapaw.
Charles Meli said it was a great day for his father.
"I am very proud of my father. I have always been proud of my father, and it's an honor," he said.
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