72 years ago, soldiers, most of them teenagers, had their first taste of combat. D-day, the invasion of Normandy, turned the tides of World War II. More than 160,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of France. And on Monday, those men were recognized at the Chamizal National Memorial.
Maynard Beamesderfer was among the nearly 30 veterans on stage for Monday’s ceremony.
“Eisenhower gave us the orders, if they don’t come, you’re on your own,” Beamesderfer said.
He was just 19 years old the day his boots hit the ground. “Beamy” as his friends call him was with the 101st Airborne.
“I was the first ones to get into D-Day. I was a pathfinder. There was 350 of us that went in ahead before the main group.”
Also part of the invasion, Eduardo G. Flores. He remembers that day vividly.
“Being in a different world, action, bodies going down, friends, you know, you’re losing friends and making friends,” Flores said.
More than 9,000 Allied soldiers died or were wounded on D-Day. On Monday, the survivors gathered to honor and remember the fallen.
“This day makes me very happy to be here, like I said before, but mostly because I see some of my buddies, but I, what hurts me is that there’s a lot of them that are not here,” Flores said.
Decades later, those that did survive the invasion are dying of old age. According to the Veterans Administration, nearly 300 World War II veterans die each day, and with them, their stories.
“This was a very significant period in the history of our nation,” John Ceballos, spokesman for the 82nd ABN DIV Association, Inc. said. “There are a lot of stories of our vets that people just don’t know about.”
And to keep those stories alive we rely on the veterans who bravely lived through them.
“Some of the stories that, you know, are extremely extraordinary and demonstrated exemplary service needs to be told,” Ceballos said.
Operations Overlord was the largest amphibious invasion in history. It was originally planned for May 1 and then June 5, but was delayed due to bad weather.
Of the 16 million who served in World War II, only 855,000 remain.