MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In front of the entrance to Memphis International Airport, a police escort followed by motorcyclists holding American flags paved the way for a bus carrying 14 special passengers.
There were handshakes, hugs, and salutes for a group of Memphis World War II veterans preparing to travel back to Normandy, France, to commemorate D-Day.
Veterans such as Vincent Rowell wore name badges with photos of how they looked decades ago.
Many years have passed, but not their excitement for returning to France where they fought Nazi Germany.
“I fought with the 29th Infantry Division. I landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. I am looking forward to having a great time because of it being the anniversary and so much recognition from the French government recognizing us since there aren’t too many of us living any longer,” Rowell said.
It’ll be the first time Ed Higginbothom has returned since the war ended 70 years ago.
“I served in the Field Artillery 187th. It’ll be very emotional since it’ll be the first time in 70s years. It’ll be very emotional, very exciting and very anticipated,” Higginbothom said.
This trip is made possible because of the Forever Young Senior Veteran Wish Organization. Diane Hight is the group’s founder and president.
“They see the beautiful land and peacefulness and they realize they did something very worthwhile and they come back with a spring in their step. They did something that made a difference in the world,” Hight said.
For many of these vets that difference came with a price. Many of their friends were killed or wounded, but many also marched across Europe to defeat Hitler, and it’s why they feel honored to receive this patriotic sendoff 70 years later.
“I’m so proud of the force that landed and I’m proud to be an American,” Higginbothom said.