NORMANDY, France — It's been nearly 80 years since D-Day, and making sure surviving U.S. veterans of that history-making invasion are able to revisit the battle sites has become a mission of Michelin North America Inc.
Working in partnership with Best Defense Foundation and Delta Air Lines Inc., Michelin helped organize and fund a nine-day trip in early June for 44 WW II veterans from all branches of the U.S. military who served in WW II, including some of those who were there on the French beaches on June 6, 1944.
Starting in the French coastal town of Deauville, the tour visited dozens of towns from Carentan to Caen and Sainte-Mere-Eglise to Bayeux, where according to the sponsoring trio, townspeople filled the streets to welcome their liberators at every stop. Children waved American and French flags, and adults cried while meeting their heroes, thanking them for not only their freedom, but freedom across Europe.
It's woven into the gratitude — the reverence — on full display throughout the Normandy region. Because that surprise attack on the Axis powers led not only to the liberation of France, it marked a turning a point in the war itself.
"The reception of the people of Normandy is something that I am amazed by every year," U.S. Army veteran Jake Larson — who was part of the D-Day invasion of the Normandy beaches —said. "I was excited to return with my fellow veterans to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. It is up to us to remember."