Heroes From the Heart of Virginia: Buster Shaeff
Bedford, VA - Buster Shaeff is a World War II veteran living in Lynchburg.
His story is a special one.
At just 19, as a sailor in the Navy, he helped transport soldiers ready for combat, to the beaches for D-Day.
He also helped bring back soldiers that weren't so fortunate.
Shaeff often walks through the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford.
"It brings back a lot of memories" he said.
Shaeff has never been back to the beaches near Normandy France. This is the closest he gets.
But nearly 70 years after Shaeff landed his boat on Omaha beach:
"The water of course was extremely rough" he remembers every detail of D-Day. "They took quite a beating, because we were running through four to five foot waves."
Shaeff, a Navy sailor, was a part of the initial wave that transported thousands of ground troops to the beaches.
His boat was an amphibious land and sea craft, transporting more than 30 men.
"We saw some boats get hit, we were very fortunate we didn't get hit. It was a... It was a..." Words escape him to describe what he saw.
The entire day, was spent at sea for Shaeff. By its end, he had made three trips, each three hours.
"We had 40mm and 20mm guns on the ship, and that was the extent of our firepower" he said.
Shaeff's small ship, with just two guns dodged a barrage from Nazis.
"It was quite nerve-racking you might say" said Shaeff.
His final trip to the beach was perhaps his most profound. Shaeff spent it, picking up fallen soldiers.
"We picked them up out of the water" he said.
A massive graveyard absent of headstones and coffins, "Many of them were floating around after the original invasion."
"He did not talk about the war until they started building the D-Day memorial" said his wife, Josephine.
But Buster made sure to write his then girlfriend, "He wrote every day except when he was involved in D-Day" she said.
They've now been married for more than six decades. They have three sons, and grandchildren. And spend a lot of time at the D-Day Memorial. Thankful this D-Day hero can look back now, and smile.
"It was an unusual event" he said. "To say the least" said Josephine.
Shaeff is a volunteer at the Memorial. He says he has no plans to go back to the beaches near Normandy.