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Cheektowaga WWII vet receives U.S., French service medals

Nearly 74 years to the day since he joined the Army to fight in World War II, Howard Tobin of Cheektowaga on Monday received military honors from the United States and French governments.

Tobin, now 93, was presented with five U.S. medals as well as the French Legion of Honor Medal during a ceremony in Cheektowaga Town Hall.

Tobin served in the 551st Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment, which helped liberate several French cities. He also fought in the Battle of the Bulge and witnessed the liberation of Nazi concentration camps.

Having the medals pinned to his chest before family and friends stirred thoughts of the time served fighting for his country during the war, Tobin said.

"It's the memory of it," he said, "which is sort of sad in a way because of all the many soldiers who didn't make it and didn't come back and enjoy the life that I got."

Tobin joined the Army on Feb. 2, 1943. He fought in five battles in three campaigns - the battles of Normandy, Ardennes and Northern France. The U.S. medals he got Monday were the Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII; the Good Conduct Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the American Campaign Medal; and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and silver service star.

The French Legion of Honor Medal was presented by French Honorary Consul Pascal Soares.

"There is no greater honor than to recognize the service of our veterans, and today Cpl. Tobin's actions are recognized by not one but two grateful nations," said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.

The medal ceremony came about after Tobin inquired with Higgins' office about his eligibility for the French medal. His set of U.S. medals was obtained through the Pentagon through Higgins' office.

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