Thursday marks 75 years since D-Day. The attack on June 6,1944, of allied forces is considered one of the largest military attacks in history.
[News10NBC] sat down with a World War II veteran from Webster who was awarded a Medal of Honor by the French government for his role in helping to liberate France from Nazi Germany.
His memories are as vivid as ever.
“You’re on your own,” said U.S. Army veteran Donald Matina. “You have it all planned, but once you land and you’re in a fire fight, you’re on your own.”
Donald Matina was barely 20 years old when he found himself in Normandy, France, in the middle of World War II. He was a scout, searching for the enemy.
Allied forces approached from all sides of Normandy. His squadrons landed on Utah Beach. He remembers the danger he faced on many occasions, like when he was assigned to work with a gunner. They were behind enemy lines.
“My job was to jump in the armored car and feed the ammunition… but if he got hurt I had training on the 60 mm gun and the .50 caliber machine gun.”
He didn’t think anything would happen, but it did. He saw the enemy coming at them, but he couldn’t wake the gunner.
“He’s coming over the first hill and I can’t pull the trigger…it’s all documented,” said Matina. “I’m panicking. All of a sudden he jumps in. He couldn’t pull it either. You know what he did? He put the safety on. I told him you got the safety on and we’re in enemy territory. ”
Miraculously the enemy soldiers didn’t see their vehicle and they were able to overtake them. But that is the part of war he hated.
“Once you kill someone, it stays with you. Some nights I can’t sleep thinking about it. You know what I mean.”
Matina works out at the YMCA five days a week, paints and taught himself how to play the organ. His wife of many years passed not too long ago. But he’s the proud father of four with three grandchildren.
France awarded him a Medal of Honor for his service that helped liberate France. While Matina is disgusted by war, he says his service to this country afforded him a life he might not have had.
“Something good came out of it. I got an education. I would have never gotten an education. My parents went through the Depression.”
© 2019 Daily Messenger, Canandaigua, N.Y.
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