MAHANOY CITY, Pa. (WNEP) — Chants of “USA!” rained down in Happy Valley Saturday before Penn State’s game against Indiana. They were directed toward 95-year-old Francis Chesko of Mahanoy City.
“You can’t explain it. It was an honor, you know? To be up there with all those fans. Oh, my goodness,” Chesko said.
Chesko wasn’t recognized for his athletic prowess on the football field. Instead, he was honored for what he did for America as a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient.
“I went into Normandy the second day. Utah beach. What do I recall? Very, very scary. Scared to death,” Chesko said.
Frightening but luckily there was some familiarity there for Chesko, as 49 other soldiers from Mahanoy City and Mahanoy Township stormed Normandy alongside him.
“Then, 40 days in, the Battle of the Bulge. In the first week, no winter clothes. Temperatures in the teens, no gloves, my boots and 1944 Christmas and Christmas Eve, I was eating snow. They couldn’t find us to bring us food,” Chesko said.
All in all, Chesko was at war for about three years from the time he was 19 to 22, mostly with the Seventh Armored Division. He made it through five battles, suffering one notable injury from a nearby shell.
He was overwhelmed when he was told he was going home.
“Oh, God, tears in your eyes and so much tension and happiness. You couldn’t wait to see that Statue of Liberty in the harbor,” Chesko said.
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