WALL TOWNSHIP — History was brought to life Sunday as community members of all ages came together to remember the sacrifices made and valor exhibited by United States troops on the 77th Anniversary of D-Day.
The Best Defense Foundation sponsored a worldwide Honor Walk to commemorate the anniversary and community members of all ages, as well as some special guests of honor, came together outside the WWII & Rockafeller Memorial to remember the fallen and honor the heroes that helped change the course of history on June 6, 1944 and ensure the freedoms we all enjoy today.
“The Best Defense Foundation … normally we take veterans to Normandy for D-Day but obviously we couldn’t do that so we wanted to find another way to commemorate the day and we figured … why not do this as part of a collective effort worldwide and walk a distance of around three miles and do it in honor of D-Day,” Ptl. Mike Malone told The Coast Star.
“We did [an Honor Walk] in December for the Battle of the Bulge and we did one in March for Iwo Jima. We use these anniversaries as a day to remember what occurred on that day but to also recognize the service and sacrifice of all the veterans of World War II regardless of what theaters of war they served in.”
Sunday’s event was made extra special with three World War II veterans in attendance.
“This is an incredible opportunity for everyone here today to walk with and meet World War II veterans on the 77th anniversary of D-Day, two of whom served and were part of that operation 77 years ago. Most of us have World War II veterans in our families … and if you don’t, you can say you walked on the 77th anniversary of D-Day with three World War II veterans. It is pretty remarkable we get to do that today.”
Township resident George “Bud” Ayers, 97, served in the Navy during World War II. On June 6, 1944, he was stationed on the U.S.S. LST 981, which was heading to Omaha Beach to bring tanks, vehicles, cargo and troops directly onto the beach. LST 981 struck a mine not far from the beach and was ultimately towed back to England.
“It is quite a thing, it really is to be here. There are definitely quite a few people here today and it is nice,” he told The Coast Star.
Wall resident Bill Guarini, 94, served on a PC Submarine chaser in the pacific during the war and “their job was to hunt down, find and destroy Japanese submarines,” Ptl. Malone said.
“This is terrific. When you are in the service, it really makes you feel good,” Mr. Guarini said of the Honor Walk.
“I was in the pacific and … we did the patrol there looking for subs. I loved my Navy career. I love being an American. It is a beautiful day, beautiful people … it is really nice. The most important thing in life is friends and I had a lot of friends. I have had a great life.”
Frank DeVita, 96, of Bridgewater, served in the United States Coast Guard during World War II. On June 6, 1944 he was on a Higgins Boat landing craft, the U.S.S. Samuel Chase, transporting the boys of the “BIG RED 1” — the 1st Infantry Division to Omaha Beach.
“A Higgins Boat is a much smaller craft that would transport infantry from larger ships right on the beach. Frank’s job was to lower and raise the ramp and our boys would run right onto Omaha Beach … and Frank made 15 landings that morning,” Ptl. Malone said.
“I am thrilled. It was a wonderful turnout. I am in awe,” Mr. DeVita said of the Honor Walk. “I met a bunch of wonderful people [during my service]. We had 504 crewmen on the Chase. I don’t think there are too many left … which is sad.
“I want to cry because I see all these people honoring the Coast Guard and honoring D-Day and that is how we keep it alive.”
For more on this story, read next week's edition of The Coast Star—on newsstands Thursday or online in our e-Edition.
Subscribe today! If you're not already an annual subscriber to The Ocean Star, get your subscription today! For just $34 per year, you will receive local mail delivery weekly, with pages and pages of local news and online access to our e-edition on Starnewsgroup.com.