Eric Reilinger, a 96-year-old resident of The Fountains, a Kisco Senior Living community in Melbourne, FL, is the newest knight of the French Legion of Honor.
Seventy-one years after the end of World War II, the Army veteran was honored by the Consul General of France for his participation in the liberation of France in 1944 and for being the most decorated member of his Army battalion. Founded by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the National Order of the Legion of Honor is France’s highest honor. It recognizes eminent services to the French Republic.
Reilinger is the second recipient at this senior living community to be recognized following former resident Col. Ralph William’s designation in 2015.
“We are honored to now have two brave World War II Army veterans recognized for their service to this country,” said The Fountains Executive Director Stacey Clark. “We have been privileged to have many military veteran residents over the years, and both Col. Williams and Mr. Reilinger are ideal examples of those men and women who should be recognized for their service.”
A native of Germany, Reilinger came to New York when he was 16 years old. “My family sent me to live with my aunt in 1936,” he said. “Although my father was trying to protect me from what he saw coming, I wanted to do my part, so I joined the Army after two years of college.”
During his three-year service in the infantry, Reilinger earned a Combat Infantry Badge, Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Prisoner of War Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation, a Luxembourg Medal of Honor for his service in the Battle of the Bulge, and several service ribbons with battle stars.
“Although I was wounded and captured by the Germans during World War II, it wasn’t my goal to earn awards,” he said. “I just wanted to serve the country that had welcomed me with open arms.”
Following his years in the military, Reilinger went to work for and eventually retired from the Navy before he and his wife made the trek to The Fountains in 2005.
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