D-Day vet returns to battlefield

John Santillo A send-off for World War II veteran John Santillo as he is due to return to Normandy, France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the Greenbriar Clubhouse in Brick, NJ on 6/2/19. [DANIELLA HEMINGHAUS | THE OCEAN STAR]

BRICK TOWNSHIP — Seventy-five years after John J. Santillo stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, as part of the largest seaborne invasion in history, the decorated veteran was able to return to France to honor his fallen comrades, thanks to the help and support of the Brick community.

Mr. Santillo, whose bravery during the invasion has been recognized with the French Legion of Honor, received a ceremonial sendoff on Sunday, hosted by the Greenbriar I Veterans Committee in the clubhouse at Greenbriar I.

He talked about his return to one of the most iconic battle sites in all of World War II, the infamous Omaha Beach, where thousands of young American soldiers were gunned down in a final effort to free Europe from Nazi Germany.

“What can I say … going over there is going to be something historical for me,” said Mr. Santillo, who is 97.  “It’s going to be a lot of memories, I’ll probably shed a lot of tears at the cemetery and especially Omaha Beach.”

While in France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Mr. Santillo’s itinerary includes visiting the WWII monuments that have been erected, visiting the museum at Utah Beach and visiting the Brittany American Cemetery to pay his respects to the men and women who lost their lives. Mr. Santillo will also give a speech at the cemetery and ride a float in the annual Sainte Mère-Église parade, which honors those who liberated France.

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