WWII Vets Honored At MacDill On 75th Anniversary Of D-Day
Nine World War II veterans were honored Thursday in a ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
The eight men and one woman each received a folded American flag and standing ovations from the audience of families and Air Force service members.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright were guest speakers.
They acknowledged the importance of D-Day, when U.S. troops and their allies stormed the beaches of Normandy in the largest seaborne invasion in history.
The invasion on June 6, 1944 laid the foundation for the liberation of western Europe and the Allied victory against the Nazis.
Both men also remembered the thousands of people who died that day and thanked the veterans in the audience for their service.
Lieutenant Gerald "Bud" Berry of Clearwater was 22 years old when he flew over Normandy with the 101st Airborne Division on D-Day.
"We'd fly the airplane, let the troopers out and come back," he said. "It was a fun airplane to fly."
Berry said he doesn't remember feeling nervous about transporting paratroopers behind enemy lines.
"We didn't have any idea of what was going to happen," he said. He downplayed the machine gun fire his plane received, saying he was fortunate compared to others.
Not all of the vets being recognized were involved with D-Day directly.
Lieutenant Bob McClintock, age 100, of Seminole fought in North Africa and Italy during the war. He flew his last combat mission just a week before D-Day.
"We were so glad to hear we were going to have some relief in another part (of Europe). We wouldn't be fighting the enemy all by ourselves," he said.
McClintock got emotional as he held his flag in his hands.
"I have a feeling for the flag,” he said, choking back tears. “I can't, I can't explain it. It just means a lot to me and I know that so many men and women have died for this emblem.”
When reflecting on the war, McClintock said it's the relationships he had with his comrades and officers that he remembers most.
He wasn't the only veteran who was touched by the folded flag they received during the ceremony.
Joseph Kay, 94, was a combat photographer for the Navy and was in the Pacific on D-Day. He said he kissed his flag.
"And the reason I kiss this is because this is my country, and this flag means a lot to me,” he said. “Anywhere I went aboard ship, this flag waved."