By Nancy Gould, Hunter Army Airfield Public AffairsJune 12, 2009
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - It was an emotional day for the World War II veterans who gathered for the D-Day anniversary ceremony outside Post 135 as the 3rd Infantry Division Band played patriotic songs, June 6. They attended the ceremony to remember the battle they fought on the shores of Normandy 65 years ago, and to honor those who live and those who have fallen.
Major General Tony Cucolo, 3rd ID commanding general, commended their bravery when he spoke from the podium at the event. He asked veterans, their friends and Family Members to turn back the clock of time - to imagine themselves in the belly of a C-47 transport aircraft flying over France on June 6, 1944, ready to jump into unknown territory; or in a tank on a landing craft approaching the Normandy shores, taking on bullets from an enemy who wants to kill them.
"These small groups pressed forward, driven by mission, purpose and the will to survive," said Maj. Gen. Cucolo about the American, British and Canadians who stormed the beaches of occupied France to change the direction of World War II. "They were driven to win; to never accept defeat."
Members of the Armed Forces who fought that war reflect the best of our society, Maj. Gen. Cucolo said. "They set the example for our Soldiers today. They went toward the sound of guns; they responded to adversity with an American attitude that we will win."
Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Harold Baddow, a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, agreed with Maj. Gen. Cucolo. As a young Army private during the invasion of southern France, he recalled the horror and devastation of the bombing.
"We were kids when they hit (Japan) in the Pacific," said the 84-year-old veteran. "We were all patriotic; we always knew we were going to win."
Baddow said he also recalls young Americans lined up by the hundreds at recruiting stations during that era, eager to sign up to defend our Nation.
Baddow said he was glad to attend the ceremony with other World War II veterans, many bused from around the Coastal Empire to the ceremony site.
"This was the first time we've held a D-Day ceremony," said Bob Letcher, junior vice commander for Post 135. Letcher said he helped orchestrate the ceremony after he was approached by Frank Kelly, a World War II Veteran who fought on the front lines and played a major role in ending the war.
Letcher said he felt a strong sense of urgency to have the ceremony since most veterans are in their 80s and 90s and many are in poor health. He wants to take every opportunity to honor these great Americans who have served and hopes to have other events in the future.
Veterans, both living and deceased, were also honored with a wreath, placed by U. S. Rep. Jack Kingston, 1st District of Georgia; Maj. Gen. Cucolo, and Ralph Anderson, a World War II veteran; followed by a 21-gun salute by 3rd ID Soldiers.
Following the ceremony, the Women's Auxiliary of Post 135 held a free lunch for attendees. The post also sponsored a banquet that evening for its World War II veterans.
"It was a beautiful ceremony," said Mary Jean Rose, who attended with and her husband, Will Ross, a Navy veteran from Richmond Hill.
"I feel marvelous today," said Lt. Col. Baddow, as the day's events came to an end.
When asked what advice he'd pass to today's youth, he responded, "I'd tell them to remember the Alamo, to remember Pearl Harbor and, for God's sake, to remember 9/11. That should make them mad enough... to not give up. If we do give up, it'll happen again."