Jun 06 2019
David Mattingly and Taylor Durden | WAVE3
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - World War II veterans gathered Thursday at Memorial Auditorium for ceremonies marking the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
Organized by Honor Flight Bluegrass, the event was called Operation Bravo Zulu which means "job well done."
“I think you ought to do your best, love this country, love the people in it,” veteran Brent Hardin said. “I’d be willing to be back again, again and again if I could."
Most attending WWII veterans are in their 90’s with some over 100, like 101-year-old Ernie Micka.
“It was terrible but I’m glad the way it worked out,” Micka said. “I mean, we won. We took over. We survived.”
All of them brought stories of camaraderie and duty as well as sacrifice.
"It changed my life, made an impression,” 93-year-old Dale Faughn said. “And I sometimes say. It’s not what I did for the war, it’s what the war did for me.”
One Louisville veteran had a very personal story to tell about D-Day.
Gene Haupt was a paratrooper with the 101st airborne out of Fort Campbell.
He was dropped behind enemy lines on D-Day and eventually ended up surrounded by the enemy at the siege of Bastogne.
“I personally don’t particularly want to talk about me and what I did,” Haupt said. “I just wish the hell the world could learn. War don’t solve nothing. They just kill a lot of people."
Before the anniversary ceremony began, William McCubbin sat in his seat, flipping through hand written cards from students across the country.
“Some of the cutest little letters you could ever imagine,” McCubbin said. “And really it kind of touches you here that the kids - I’m glad to know they’re into history and that they know what went on years before they were born.”
McCubbin read aloud notes from the students that said things like “thank you for serving our great country” and “America is the greatest nation.”
He served in the Navy for three years in the South Pacific. He didn’t know about D-Day until days after it happened. He said it doesn’t feel like it’s been 75 years.
“The bad stuff you try to bury and the bad part about this is it brings stuff up that you had forgotten - hadn’t forgotten but you pushed it aside,” McCubbin said.
Hershel “Woody” Williams was a flamethrower in World War II, not in Normandy but in the Pacific. Because of his bravery during the war, he was awarded with the World War Two Medal of Honor.
“It’s not mine, I’m just the care taker of it. They made it possible so I wear it in their honor not mine,” Williams said.
Williams said it’s not just about the sacrifice the veterans made, but also their families.
“Where would we be if those families had not been willing to let their sons and husbands and aunts and uncles and cousins and all of those individuals take part in the war, knowing when they signed the oath I may never go home again,” Williams said.
When the veterans left Thursday’s event, each received an American flag and a special 75th D-Day anniversary coin from the World War II Museum in New Orleans.
There were about 100 World War II veterans in attendance.
Organizers of the 75th D-Day anniversary event in Louisville believe it was the largest gathering of World War II veterans in the U.S. happening Thursday.