Frederic Chole, deputy consul general with the French Consulate, pins the French Legion of Honor Medal on World War II veteran Mike Aleo, 96, of Clinton Township.

Frederic Chole, deputy consul general with the French Consulate, pins the French Legion of Honor Medal on World War II veteran Mike Aleo, 96, of Clinton Township.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Local World War II vet receives distinguished French honor

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published April 2, 2019

 Aleo was honored March 27 at Fraser VFW Post 6691. Aleo served in the war from 1944 to 1945, helping to liberate France.

Aleo was honored March 27 at Fraser VFW Post 6691. Aleo served in the war from 1944 to 1945, helping to liberate France.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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FRASER — On March 27, at Fraser VFW Post 6691, World War II veteran Mike Aleo, 96, was presented with the Legion of Honor Medal for his service in 1944-45. He was a corporal and field wire chief in the 257th Field Artillery Battalion of the U.S. Army.

In an application letter written by Mike’s son, Steve, in October 2017 and addressed to the French Consulate, the journey of Mike Aleo was described.

He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Later, in April 1945, after reaching the Rhine River in Germany, he and his battalion were pulled toward the west coast, to the city of Royon in France.

The battalion supported the French 2nd Army Infantry led by Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who reviewed Aleo’s battalion on April 22. In late April, the resistance collapsed.

Steve Aleo said the entire award process took about 14 months, starting with the application, leading to the delivery of the medal and then a couple more months for the VFW ceremony.

The medal is one that has been given to fellow local WWII veterans Claude Wood and Bernard Wojnowski in August 2017. Steve said that encouraged his father to look into the process for himself to receive “one of the highest honors that could ever be bestowed.”

“He’s elated, naturally, and I’m elated for him,” Steve Aleo said. “I know what it takes to go through the process, because I’m the one who filled out the application. … I’m extremely proud. Couldn’t be more glad for him.”

Frederic Chole, deputy consul general with the French Consulate, arrived from Chicago to issue the proclamation in Aleo’s honor. He said the process takes time after applications are submitted, due to proving the veracity of service members and getting the go-ahead from a French committee in Paris.

“We are very proud to award (Aleo) because, like all the other American veterans of WWII, they liberated France in 1944,” Chole said. “And if we are free today, that’s because of the courage of these brave men.”

Mike Aleo was surrounded by a plethora of family members at the presentation. He has three children — Steve, Michael and Joan — in addition to six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He is sharp as a tack and remembers his wartime years “very clearly.”

“For many years, it was a silent thing in my life,” Aleo said. “It was out of my mind and out of circulation with my kids and everything.

“After my wife passed away and I got involved with the senior center and got involved with other veterans, everything seems to flash back. That’s what time does to you.”

He worked 25 years as a plasterer apprentice and another 15 years as a carpenter before retiring. He met his wife, Catherine, about a decade after the war’s conclusion.

A dancer in those days, Aleo joked that he “played the ballrooms.” He and his wife got married and built their own home in Fraser, living there for all 58 years of their marriage, until she died about five years ago.

She was five years younger than him. Following her death, Aleo moved to the Pine Ridge of Garfield senior living facility, which he still calls home.

“She was a very good woman, very good mother and very good wife,” he said. “We were happy together.”

He knows there aren’t many World War II vets left, acknowledging that he is “very grateful” and feels he is living on “borrowed time.”

His family helps keep him feeling young. He said he tries to keep active in everything he does, attributing daily exercise to his lengthy life.

But when it comes to his service, he wouldn’t have done anything differently. In his words, “I had a very good life.”

“The service was a big part of my life,” he said. “That was the first time I was really away from home, and I had to be on my own and had to do my own thinking and be responsible for my actions.

“I owe a lot to the service. They teach you how to live, how to go ahead and be your own boss. It made a good person out of me.”

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