Seventy-eight years ago, Allied troops stormed the beaches in Normandy, France.
Thousands fought and died along those beaches on D-Day, and thousands more were killed during Operation Overlord that summer.
On Monday, veterans and civilians alike gathered at the World War II Memorial to honor those who fought and died all those decades ago.
“You get the feeling of nobody remembers, nobody gives a damn, you know, and you’ll find out that people are very interesting,” retired Staff Sgt. Harry Miller told WTOP.
“I didn’t know there was this many people that cared anymore.”
More than 225,000 Allies were killed, wounded or went missing during the operation, including the 9,000 who became casualties on D-Day.
“As citizens of a grateful nation, we salute those of the greatest generation who helped bring freedom to millions around the globe,” said Jane Droppa, chair of the Friends of the National World War II Memorial, at the ceremony. “They are not forgotten. We remember them.”
Miller was one of two World War II veterans present to lay a wreath at the Atlantic Arch in honor of those who fought and died that day.
Miller fought later that year in the Battle of the Bulge. He was a tank crewman — and he was only 16 at the time.
He told WTOP that there was no birth certificate on record for him so he was able to sign up saying he was older.
“I always wanted to be in the Army. I can remember I go into parades in my hometown and seeing Civil War veterans. And that was quite a thrill to see a Civil War veteran. And that just made me want to be a soldier even more,” said Miller.
Most of the crowd was emotional as Miller and fellow World War II veteran Lt. Cmdr. Dixon Hemphill laid the wreath to taps and the theme of the TV miniseries “Band of Brothers.”
Miller later recalled his time revisiting Normandy.
“When you go to the cemeteries over in Europe, and see all the white crosses and Stars of David in a perfect row — I got to a point where I get emotional,” said Miller, fighting back tears.
He added, “I hear people saying … how rotten everything is here. I wish they could go over there and just tour all the cemeteries.”
Hemphill announced that he would return to Normandy. He was a naval turret officer there.
He promised to keep diaries of his visit and reflections and share them with anyone who would want to read them.