Mid-South WWII Veterans Return to Normandy

Mid-South WWII Veterans Return to Normandy

It's being called "A Trip of Healing," nearly a dozen heroes are on their way to Normandy for the first time since they fought in World War Two.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - In what's being called "A Trip of Healing," nearly a dozen heroes are on their way to Normandy for the first time since they fought in World War II.

It wasn't a typical day at Memphis International. When 11 special passengers arrived, they had no clue what awaited at their departure city. The Navy band filled the airport with a heart warming send-off, along with dozens of middle school students and Patriot Riders, a perfect fit for these 11 heroes.

Veteran Glen Johnson was in awe of the crowd, "We're going to be treated like royalty wherever we go, I've never had this much royalty, I don't think the President gets that much."

Veteran Bill Hawkins reminisced, "It felt good, very happy to be able to walk in here, I left a lot of good friends over there that can't walk."

Hawkins was just a boy when he entered the military; he arrived at Omaha Beach in December 1944. It was one winter that would forever change his life. "The coldest winter on record in over 100 years," he recalls. The loneliest too - he was captured in the Battle of the Bulge.

Johnson knew the feeling well. He stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. This is his first trip back, and he was overwhelmed as he walked in the airport. "I wasn't expecting it, and 20 something motorcycle guards," he says, "I'm glad the people hadn't forgotten us, I sure am."

The veterans are taking a healing trip to visit the places they served. Desoto Central Middle and Lakeland Elementary students raised money for two of the heroes to take this once in a lifetime trip. Braden Rawsen is an 8th grader at Desoto Central Middle School, he explains why he helped, "So they don't have to see how they saw it during the war, so painful and regretful."

Veteran Hulan Roberts is thankful for the opportunity, "I don't think we deserve all this honor, we just had a job to do. If it happened today we would do the same thing again."

The veterans are excited to see the places they served in a whole new way, almost like it’s the first time. "I really want to see the Eiffel Tower," Johnson says, "I haven't seen that, I'm going to see that the first thing."

Hawkins laughs, "This had to better than the first go around."
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