Thirty World War II veterans will return to the beaches of Normandy, France this week to observe the 78th Anniversary of D-Day, the U.S-led invasion on June 6, 1944, during which thousands of service members died while storming the French beaches. The event is made possible by the Best Defense Foundation, a nonprofit group founded in 2018 by former NFL Linebacker Donnie Edwards.
“The mission of the Best Defense Foundation is ‘taking care of those who took care of us.’ Through this amazing partnership with Delta Air Lines, we are able to accomplish this mission and provide these heroes with the opportunity to reconnect with their brothers, honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and celebrate the liberation of an ally,” Edwards said in a statement.
Edwards told CBS 8 that the organization has “a great, great, great schedule planned” for the World War II veterans, including 101-year-old Omaha Beach survivor C.P. Martin.
“It was a mess. The weather was atrocious,” Martin said, recalling the battle. According to History.com, at least 4,000 Allied troops died during the amphibious invasion and thousands more were wounded or missing in action.
Betty Huffman-Rosevear, whose husband was killed in Denmark, said she joined the allied troops as an Army Corps nurse.
“Thirty-one days on a ship and I was in the Philippines not long after that,” Huffman-Rosevear said.
According to CBS 8, all of the trip’s attendees spoke of D-Day like it was yesterday.
“The first thing to go is the plan. When you got the order, you moved. We had a duty to perform, and we did it,” said Andre Chappaz, 96, who saw battle in the Pacific.
“They threw chaos at us, I mean chaos,” said Tom Rice, a 100-year-old paratrooper who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
Rice was dropped behind enemy lines and despite being wounded four times, he kept returning to the fight.
“Well, I didn’t ask for it. I got in the way of it,” he said with a laugh.
Gilbert Nadeau, 96, said proudly, “We went in to kick butt. It was World War.”
Edwards said the foundation covers the entire cost of the trip, which includes a nine-day experience featuring multiple parades, a commemorative parachute jump and official commemoration ceremonies. A dozen of the veterans are also going to receive the French Legion of Honor.
“They’ve already paid, they’ve already paid,” Edwards said while holding an American flag.
“Come June 1, it’s game time,” he continued. “This is a flag that has been all around the world. This represents all of those who are no longer here.”