AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– Thanksgiving may be a week away, but a local family is already giving thanks for their loved one. A man who recently received a high honor for his service to this country from leaders in France. 

Joseph Battista enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1943. He was 18 years old.

“At that time, after Pearl Harbor, the whole country was all ready to got to war. Everybody wanted to fight the Japanese and the Germans,” Battista said.

It has been nearly 70 years since Battista completed his service to the United States, but the passage of time cannot begin to diminish his memories of that service and the duty he feels to his country.

Battista recalls a time during World War II when sailors asked to trade places with his crew, so they could go to the invasion.

“They came aboard and they offered us as much as $300 if we would trade places with them. You’ve got to remember, we only made $50 a month. So that was six months pay if you would take it. But on board our ship, not one sailor would trade places with them. We all had to go to see what it was like. Not one of us would accept the money,” Battista said.

So many incredible memories from his service…from the shores of Normandy to the battlefields of southern France, and many from inside the ship’s radio room.

“I copied a message and this message came and it was from the president of the United States, who said that the war in Europe had ended,” Battista said.

And now he’s being honored for what he did. Battista received the French Legion of Honor, one of the highest honors awarded by the president of the French Republic.

“The award is given to those in allied armies who helped liberate France during the second World War,” Battista’s son-in-law, Brigadier General Jeffrey Foley said.

A high honor, decades in the making. An honor for a hero who has made his country, and his family, so proud.

“It was the greatest event of my whole life. I never had received anything as nice as this,” Battista said.