Some veterans returned to the beaches of Normandy this week to honor the more than 150,000 American, British, Canadian and other Allied D-Day veterans who risked and gave their lives to defeat Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. With many D-Day veterans now in their 90s, this year's anniversary has the added poignancy of being the last time that many of those who took part in the battle will be able to make the long journey back to Normandy and tell their stories.
"Three minutes after landing a mortar blew up next to me and I lost my K-rations," said Curtis Outen, 92, of Pageland, South Carolina. Outen, making his first return to Normandy since the war, related the loss of his military-issued meal packet as though it happened yesterday. "Then I cut my arm in the barbed wire entanglements. After that I was all right."
Retired lawyer Paul Clifford of Boston kneeled silently and placed a bouquet of red, white and blue flowers at the grave of Walter J. Gunther Jr., a paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Division killed on D-Day.
Clifford said the grave belonged to a relative of his best friend in Boston. The friend has never been able to travel to Normandy to visit the grave, so Clifford has come each June for the last 10 years to pay his respects.
"He was my best friend's uncle. When he came down his parachute got caught in the branches. He never made it out of the trees," said Clifford.
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