WWII Veterans Mark D-Day’s 79th Anniversary In Powerful Way

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Today marks the 79th anniversary of D-Day, and to mark the solemn occasion, some World War II veterans returned to the very Normandy beaches where the legendary battles took place.

79th Anniversary Of D-Day

As the 99 year-old veteran Robert Gibson stood on Utah Beach, he recalled to the Associated Press that “it was tough.” On this day in 1944, Gibson was one of over 150,000 Allied troops who landed on the beach to fight.

Gibson went on to say that there were “lots of casualties. We had almost run over bodies to get in the beach. Never forget we were only 18, 19 years old. … I’m glad I made it.” He added that his job on D-Day was “to guard an ammunition dump and the first night it got struck. You didn’t know where you were to go. Bullets were going all over the place. But we ducked it.”

The veteran Andrew Negra, 99, returned to Utah Beach for the first time this year, and he was “amazed” by how welcoming the local French people were to him.

“Every place we went, people are cheering, clapping, and they’ve been doing this for I don’t know how many years,” he said.

Negra is the only member of his battalion that is still alive today.

“So many we lost,” he lamented. “And here I am.”

Related: Gary Sinise Honors Oldest WWII Veteran After He Dies At 112 – ‘An American Hero’

Veterans Form Parade

On Sunday, forty American World War II veterans formed a parade and used wheelchairs to move through the streets of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, where thousands of paratroopers jumped just after midnight on June 6, 1944.

“For us, every year is a big one,” said Donnie Edwards, president of the non-profit organization Best Defense Foundation, which helps World War II veterans visit former battlefields.

“Nothing is guaranteed,” he continued. “So we want to make sure that we do everything we can to get them an incredible and enjoyable experience.”

After the parade, the veterans went to Sainte-Marie-du-Mont for a short ceremony at a monument overlooking Utah Beach.

“The fallen will never be forgotten. The veteran will ever be honored,” the memorial reads.

There, the 98 year-old veteran Matthew Yacovino became emotional as he talked about his older brother, who was nearly killed after his jeep blew up during the landings.

“The driver got killed and my brother fell on the beach unconscious,” Yacovino said as he struggled to hold back tears.

Thankfully, his brother ended up making a full recovery, and Yacovino went on to serve as a U.S. combat air crewman during World War II.

Find out more about the D-Day anniversary in the video below.

Related: Last Surviving ‘Band Of Brothers’ Officer Dies At 99 – This Is The Incredible Story Of Edward Shames

‘They Saved The World’

Gen. Mark Milley, the U.S. Joint Chiefs chairman, talked about how important these D-Day commemorations are “for memorializing the efforts that they did and what they did.”

“They were fighting to make sure that fascism and Nazism didn’t stay in control of Europe,” Milley said. “Ultimately, we all know that they were successful.”

With fewer and fewer World War II veterans surviving each year, celebrating the anniversary of something like D-Day is more important than ever.

“It was one of the most momentous events of the last century,” April Cheek-Messier, president and CEO of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation, told ABC News. “The men and women of D-Day and World War II literally saved the world. They saved the world for the next generation.”

Find out more about this in the video below.

We must all do our part to ensure that D-Day is never forgotten. God bless all the soldiers who gave their lives for the rest of us on this day 79 years ago!

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