Joy, Sadness as WWII Vets Return for D-Day Ceremony

Events were scaled down for 2 years during the pandemic
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 6, 2022 2:26 PM CDT
WWII Veterans Return for D-Day Commemorations
World War II reenactors gather on Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, Normandy,?France Monday, June 6,?2022, the day of 78th anniversary of the assault that helped bring an end to World War II.   (AP Photo/Jeremias Gonzalez)

Joy and sadness in acute doses poured out Monday on the beaches of Normandy. As several dozen D-Day veterans—now all in their 90s—set foot on the sands that claimed so many colleagues, they are thankful for the gratitude and friendliness of the French toward those who landed here on June 6, 1944. The sadness comes as they think of their fallen comrades and of another battle now being waged in Europe: the war in Ukraine. As a bright sun rose Monday over the wide band of sand at Omaha Beach, US D-Day veteran Charles Shay expressed thoughts for his comrades who died here 78 years ago. "I have never forgotten them and I know that their spirits are here," he told the AP.

The 98-year-old Penobscot Native American from Indian Island, Maine, took part in a sage-burning ceremony near the beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer. Shay, who now lives in Normandy, was a 19-year-old US Army medic when he landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. He said he was especially sad to see war in Europe once again, so many years later. "Ukraine is a very sad situation. I feel sorry for the people there and I don’t know why this war had to come, but I think the human beings like to, I think they like to fight. I don’t know," he said. "In 1944, I landed on these beaches and we thought we’d bring peace to the world. But it’s not possible."

For the past two years, D-Day ceremonies were reduced to a minimum amid COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. But this year, crowds of French and international visitors—including veterans in their 90s—were back in Normandy to pay tribute to the nearly 160,000 troops from Britain, the US, Canada and elsewhere who landed there to bring freedom. On that single day, 4,414 Allied soldiers lost their lives, 2,501 of them Americans. Several thousand people attended a ceremony Monday at the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach in the French town of Colleville-sur-Mer. They applauded more than 20 WWII veterans who were present at the commemoration. (More D-Day stories.)

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