On Patrol

Until every one comes home | The Magazine of the USO

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For the residents of Normandy, it’s déjà vu 70 years in the making.

Charles E. Wilson talks with a resident of Carentan, Normandy, France. She wanted to offer him her appreciation for liberating her town near Utah Beach in June 1944. Wilson, 88, was with the 4th Infantry Division on June 6, 1944. His visit to Normandy is the first since D-Day. USO photo by Samantha L. QuigleyCharles E. Wilson talks with a resident of Carentan, Normandy, France. She wanted to offer him her appreciation for liberating her town near Utah Beach in June 1944. Wilson, 88, was with the 4th Infantry Division on June 6, 1944. His visit to Normandy is the first since D-Day. USO photo by Samantha L. QuigleyMembers of the Greatest Generation are storming Normandy again, but this time it’s with their memories and stories to share, which they’ll willingly do if you’ve got a minute to spare. The stories may come in bits and pieces, though. The residents of Normandy – old and young alike – can’t walk by a World War II veteran without offering sincere, heartfelt gratitude for their freedom.

While Charles E. Wilson, with the 4th Infantry Division on June 6, 1944, held an impromptu audience in the town of Carentan, France, as he stopped to accept thanks and sign pieces of nostalgia no fewer than four times in 15 minutes. One woman close to Wilson’s age thanked him profusely – and in limited English – for liberating her town. She lived near Utah Beach in one of the “first towns liberated.” There seem to be a number of “first towns liberated.” Three have surfaced already.

Wilson, in Normandy for the first time since June 6, 1944, is one of many U.S. veterans in the area to observe the 70th anniversary of D-Day on June 6. In addition to rock-star treatment, the veterans are attending andparticipating in special programs recognizing them for their actions seven decades ago. They’re also frequently staring back at younger versions of themselves as re-enactors in vintage uniforms roam the streets in vehicles from the 1940s.

Stay tuned for more updates as the commemoration continues, building to the ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery on Friday.

Re-enactors are storming the beaches this week in Normandy, France, nearly 70 years after Allied forces did it for real on June 6, 1944. USO photo by Samantha L. QuigleyRe-enactors are storming the beaches this week in Normandy, France, nearly 70 years after Allied forces did it for real on June 6, 1944. USO photo by Samantha L. Quigley