Wichita Falls, Texas -
About two weeks ago, on June 6, the world looked back on the 70th anniversary of D-Day including one local World War II veteran.
Dale Nelsen, a hospital corpsman on a Navy Landing Ship, Tank (LST), is one of the many Americans who paid tribute to the heroes lost on the beaches of Normandy.
He made the incredible journey back to France to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
"At the time we were in our little part of the war, we really didn't know what was going on around us very much because we were busy doing what we had to do," Nelsen says. "It was a situation that we found ourselves in and we did what we were suppose to do and we did it damn well."
He says, "To think that they gave up their whole lives for this country, it's beyond, I just can't even imagine it."
It was the second time Nelsen has visited Normandy since the war ended.
"What hit me the most was the people of France and the people of Belgium, how thankful they are for us," Nelsen says.
In addition, he says, "We who are in uniform were sometimes surrounded by people wanting autographs, wanting pictures, some of them, a nice lady wanted to sit on your lap and have pictures. It was really an emotional feeling to think we had a part in helping these people survive."
He says a simple display of gratitude by a European teen is one of his fondest memories of that trip.
"He handed me a red rose and there was a card on that rose, a heart-shaped card and it was written on there, 'Thank you so much to our liberator'. I looked at this young boy, I was seated, I got up and I hugged him and I said thanks, thanks for remembering and we parted with tears running down our cheeks.
It was a trip Nelsen was proud to share with his granddaughter.
"I want you to see and hear what happened in this country, in Europe. What these American boys did for us and pass this word on as you can. Let people know what the military did for this country," Nelsen says.
Nelsen says he just hopes future generations never forget the sacrifices made by so many seven decades ago.
Nelsen says his goal now is to find WWII veterans to participate in an Honor Flight program.
If you know a veteran and would like to help Nelsen, you can call him 940.692.5946.
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