Times were different then. When American WWII Veterans returned home, an entire generation of young men and women servicemembers just wanted to move on with their lives. Scattered across the rural American heartland and into bustling metropolises, many of our vets didn’t reconnect with their comrades until their senior years.
Today, our WWII Veterans are in their nineties and above and many have never told their children or spouses about their experiences in the war. Maybe that’s why, when an opportunity to join an all expenses paid, honorary program to return to their foreign battlefields all these many years later with their brothers in arms, so many Veterans have decided it’s time to open up; to finally tell their stories and relive the history, for these brave souls are the last ones who are able to relay the tale firsthand
It is our duty and privilege to assist with The Best Defense Foundation’s “Return to Normandy” program, where sixteen World War II Veterans experienced the 75th Commemoration of D-Day. Where, on June 6th, 1944, the Allied armies invaded Normandy. Code-named Operation Overlord, it was the single largest seaborne invasion in history. The operation began the liberation of France from Nazi occupation, and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front of WWII.
As the BDF Veterans returned together, living under the same roof in a twelve bedroom chateau once used by Nazi officers as their comfortable quarters, a brotherhood was forged. There, in these moments the stories, jokes, friendly insults and nicknames started flying like old times in the barracks. In others, the mood turned more somber as places became familiar and the hard past came rushing into the present. But for those moments too, the veterans were standing tall with their brothers and sisters, allowing the emotions to pour over them, to grieve their lost comrades and to let themselves bring closure to that part of their lives all these many years later.
The program came to a climax when these American Veterans came together on June 6, 2019 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of that fateful day; that day which changed the lives of so many, D-Day June 6, 1944. Joined by the American and French Presidents and many other Heads of State - BDF Veterans were honored on the global stage, in front of tens of thousands of people and seen by millions more. At the Omaha Beach Memorial at Colleville-Sur-Mer American Cemetery, POTUS honored PFC Russell Pickett, a first wave Omaha Beach D-Day Veteran. “Russell Pickett of Co. A 1st Bn, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division. Today, believe it or not, he has returned, once more, to these shores, to be with his comrades.” Shaking hands with both Presidents and First Ladies, this was a special moment of honor for our deserving Veterans.
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Today we join the @bestdefensefoundation at the Omaha Beach Memorial on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. French and American Presidents honored one of the sixteen veterans that returned with the foundation to Normandy, PFC Russell Pickett of the 29th Infantry Division, a first wave Omaha Beach D-Day Veteran. “He has returned, once more, to these shores, to be with his comrades. Private Pickett, you honor us all with your presence.” ????@realdonaldtrump @emmanuelmacron These veterans are true heroes, and we salute you.
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After eleven days of these moments, eleven days of goosebumps, laughs, handshakes and trying to hold back tears, the BDF program had reached its conclusion. To help protect these memories, the BDF used Pelican Cases to create Memento Kits. These kits were personalized for each Veteran to feature their photo, a signed thank you card from the BDF staff, their service branch/division patch, a 75th Commemorative D-Day Coin and enamel pins from our partners including United Airlines and the National Football League. Each kit also included limited edition Oakley sunglasses featuring the invasion map of Omaha beach printed on the frame and wipe cloth.
The foundation’s Executive Director and former NFL player, Donnie Edwards says, “Pelican was one of our first sponsors, we’re so grateful that they believe in our program and the experience and honor it provides to our Veterans. By sponsoring us, Pelican is helping living legends within our military have the experience of a lifetime and by doing so, cementing their brand’s legacy with those who serve.”
As our heroes return to their hometowns, our hearts are warmed, but our work is not finished. The Best Defense Foundation next sets their sights on veterans returning to Belgium and Holland for the 75th Anniversary of The Battle of the Bulge and Operation Market Garden. Help us support the Best Defense Foundation’s mission for these and future operations by giving at their donation page: www.BestDefenseFoundation.org/donate