French People Welcome, Thank Veterans
Normandy, France - For many years World War II veterans would not talk about what they did. Some would even downplay their heroic efforts. The French knew all along. They were the recipients of liberty when the Allies landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944.
"This trip has been planned since 1992," said Henry Gurney, a Normandy campaign veteran from White Hall, New York.
Henry Gurney, 89, landed with 2nd Division on D+1. This is his first trip back to Normandy.
"Fantastic, emotional, overwhelming, all the expletives you can think of," said Gurney. "The French people have been remarkable. They have approached me all the days that I've been here and taken pictures, autographs. It's just been amazing."
Benjamin Jason, 89, was a tugboat sailor who carried concrete through the channel to build harbors for the Allies.
"I've waited 70 years to come back here," said Jason. "This is my first trip and it's been very enlightening. It's been gratifying."
From the windows of their tour bus, the veterans saw people lining village streets just to greet them. French homes were decorated with American, British, Canadian, and French flags. The veterans were toasted at champagne receptions, presented medals, and honored in ceremonies.
This is the seventh time Lynchburg D-Day veteran Bill Sis, 89, has been back to Normandy since landing with the 9th Division. He's finally OK with the French making a big fuss.
"I like it now. I like it. They're patriotic. They love their freedom," said Sisk. "Once they got their freedom back, they appreciate us more because we gave it back to them."
"We had read about it, but you've just got to receive it to understand it. They're so sincere about it. It just comes from the heart," said Gurney.
"It surpasses my thoughts and imagination of what they perceived of us," said Jason. "I'm very, very proud to be here."