SANFORD, N.C. (WNCN) – A Sanford family on Sunday received one of the highest awards for military valor, an award given in memory of their father, a World War II veteran.
This family has been working for more than a decade to learn more information about their father’s military career. They got those details Sunday – and also got a big surprise.
Russell Ciccotti said it was the closure he and his siblings have wanted. Their father, Staff Sgt. Louis Ciccotti, died in 1996. He served in the infantry in World War II, when the United States invaded Italy.
The family knew their father’s awards included a Silver Star but they didn’t know why.
Like many war vets, Ciccotti’s records were lost in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. That fire that destroyed many of the U.S. records from the period.
But Russell Ciccotti knew there had to be a story behind the Silver Star his father earned.
“As I got older and went through my military service, I started to realize that this is a significant award, there had to be a significant achievement attached to it,” he said.
The Ciccottis eventually learned about the Veterans Legacy Foundation.
The volunteer group researches records and awards that a veteran never received or never documented. For Ciccotti, that meant finding documents from 1944.
On Sunday, nearly 50 people gathered at the Carolina Trace Country Club to hear Ciccotti’s accomplishments.
The foundation learned Ciccotti earned a Silver Star after his unit was under attack in France and Ciccotti successfully led his squad back to safety. Ciccotti held his position for two full days without food and water.
After hearing Ciccotti’s orders, a Silver Star was presented to the family.
They also received a surprise Bronze Star for Ciccotti’s military achievement. Before his death, Ciccotti never knew he qualified for this honor.
“I’m just kind of a basket case right now,” Russell Ciccotti said. “I am elated, I am relieved and I am so proud of dad’s service .”
The Veterans Legacy Foundation has assisted about 70 families since it began and now has 350 open cases.