James and Doris Kestler were married in June 1942. Three months later, James packed his bags and went to war. The Army Veteran landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day plus one.
HIGH POINT, N.C. -- After 71 one years of marriage, Doris Kestler still sees the soldier she fell in love with.
"I look at him as a hero," said Doris Kestler of her husband, James Kestler. "Very much so."
The couple was married on June 20, 1942. Three months later, James packed his bags and went to war.
"We didn't know where we were going, they didn't tell us where we were going, we were just doing what they said to do," said James Kestler, WWII Veteran.
Kestler's orders took him to France, where for a week before D-Day, his unit waited off the coast of Normandy.
On June 7th, 1944, he landed on Omaha Beach.
"We moved in, they were still firing, there was still shooting going on around the beach," said Kestler.
"They were just firing those things. It was the biggest firework display I have ever seen."
It's a sound and a sight burned into Kestler's memory but nothing is as clear as his fellow soldiers, he found lying dead on the beach.
"I saw a row of dead Americans," remembered Kestler. "I saw right there where we landed, and right along the base, back from the water a little way, they had them racked up in stretchers an all."
As Kestler made his way up the beach, he couldn't help but notice a gold band on the finger of a soldier lying on one those stretchers.
"He had this ring on and I thought I hadn't been married too long myself, I knew how important it was to have a ring," said Kestler. "His hands were up… and I thought well, they'll notify his wife, you know that he's not here anymore, he gone."
More than 5,000 miles away, Kestler's bride waited patiently for news.
"You always looked for a letter. Everyday," said Doris.
Doris kept all the letters she received - ones from base, the ones from overseas, and the telegram from the War Department telling her, her husband was wounded.
The last letter she received was the most important. It said her soldier was finally coming home.
"She waited for me through the war and we've been together 71 years… hard to realize," said Kestler.
His homecoming was very low-key. Doris says when she returned home from work one evening - James was sitting in the living room.
The couple will celebrate their 72nd wedding anniversary this year.