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Vets honored on D-Day anniversary

June 6, 2008 4:19:14 PM PDT
Sixty-four years ago, Allied forces invaded Normandy. On Friday in Chicago, ten D-Day veterans were honored for their service to our country.

During World War II, the men played different but important roles in the invasion of Normandy, France, but they never crossed paths, until now.

A luncheon in their honor brought together nearly a dozen Chicago area D-Day veterans who averaged 90 years of age.

"They're old, like I am," Louis Venditti laughed. He was a paratooper with the Screaming Eagles, and one of the first to arrive in Normandy.

"We see the first wave coming in, and when the Navy stopped and they came in, and we threw orange smoke grenades out to let them know we were there. And they were very happy to see us," sai d Venditti.

Other veterans didn't want to share their war stories.

"It was hell. I lost a lot of buddies. I don't talk about it much," said Allen Price.

There are memories that are still vivid of a war that cost nearly 300,000 Americans their lives.

"Many of them saw some of their best friends killed right in front of them, in pretty grisly circumstances," said Dr. Edward Gordon, military historian.

Those sacrifices inspired Georges Cuisance to honor the veterans at his restaurant, Kiki's Bistro. He was a child in France when American troops liberated it from Nazi occupation.

"Good memories, bad memories of the war, and you're a 10-year-old kid, it still stays in you," said Cuisance.

Along with rich French food, there were other special touches, such as this cake in the shape of a Sherman tank. The veterans say they appreciated the special attention and the chance to meet new friends.

"We got here early and we've been treated royally," said Charles Doty, veteran.

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that there are about 2.5 million World War II veterans. That number was once 16 million. But veterans are dying at a rate of 1,000 a day.

The event took three months to plan and required a lot of leg work to track the veterans down. Some came from downstate.


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