BROWNS SUMMIT, N.C. -- Saturday, June 7, 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of "D-Day Plus One"--when a second wave of troops descended upon the beaches of Normandy to sort through the devastation that remained the aftermath of the D-Day invasion.
Among the 127 WWII veterans from the Triad who went on the D-Day Honor Trip to Bedford, Va. Friday were a handful of those who got to Normandy in the days immediately following D-Day. Stanley Krzywonos said his 296th Engineer Combat Battalion drove onto Omaha Beach June 8, 2014--"D-Day Plus Two"--his 21st birthday.
"I saw these Americans lying face down. It kind of shook me up a bit, you know? It's a feeling you won't forget," he said.
Krzywonos said his battalion was waiting in the bay on D-Day, but General Omar Bradley held back the troops.
"He wasn't getting any information, and there was no 'OK' that the beach was being established," he explained. Krzywonos said his crew waited for a signal that came two days too late.
"I feel as though they (troops who fought on D-Day) saved my life, because if we woulda went in the same day as them, we would have been gone, because they never had a chance," he said.
Krzywonos has said the "real heroes" are the men who died in World War II. But, he said the outpouring of support from the Triad community, including the thousands who turned out at Hanes Mall Friday to welcome home the veterans, has made him feel like one.
"Oh, that was wonderful. That was wonderful. I never expected such a thing, you know?" Krzywonos said.
He said one gesture, in particular, has touched his life forever. Yesterday, an Honor Trip volunteer gave him one of the hundreds of cards written for the veterans by children in the Triad. He said his hand-written card, made by little girl named "Hannah" is now one of his most prized possessions.
"I want to tell her what a good job she'd done. I don't know her, and she doesn't know me, and I appreciate it," he said.
He added, "When I go, I want them to put it in with me, you know. I want to hold on to this. I'm proud. I feel proud. And I want to thank her very much."
WFMY News 2 would like to extend heartfelt appreciation to all Triad community members who attended the Honor Trip homecoming celebration at Hanes Mall Friday, June 6. Thank you for helping provide our WWII veterans with what they say was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.