PEKIN, Ill. (WMBD)– Pekin’s Dean Preston holds a unique distinction, he’s among the fewer than 1% of Americans who served in WWII that are still alive.

More importantly, this Air Force vet also holds one of France’s highest distinctions: the French Legion of Honor.

“I volunteered to be in the Air Force, I thought I’d go someplace in the Air Force, but I guess they wanted me for radio maintenance so they sent me to school in radio maintenance and there were 26 of us, we all ended in the same place, overseas,” said Preston.

Preston was a radio operator and repairman in the 927th Signal Battalion. His participation in the war included the Allied invasion of southern France.

He also saw action in North Africa, Italy, and the fierce fighting in the Ardennes Forest.

In August, France’s Consul General to the Midwest Yannick Tagand bestowed the honor upon Preston in front of a large crowd at the Preston Hanley funeral home in Pekin.

“What we aim at is to recognize all the US veterans who made it to France, who fought in France during World War II, because what they have done is so important for us historically, but it’s also very inspiring for new generations,” said Tagand.

For Preston, it’s an award he’ll cherish.

Preston said, “It’s quite an honor, and I never expected anything like it of course, I made a couple of other medals like this but I didn’t know how much I wanted them but this one’s a different story.”

Preston turns 99 later this month. He still works part time at the Preston Hanley funeral home.