BEDFORD, Va. – A World War II veteran who fought in the invasion of Normandy visited the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford Tuesday for the first time.
Louis Graziano is thought to be the last surviving eyewitness to Germany's surrender in Reims, France, in May of 1945, the day before V.E. Day, which brought the formal end to the war.
On Tuesday, he visited the memorial, which was built to honor men and women like him, and shared stories with the media about his time in the Army.
He landed in the third wave on Omaha Beach during D-Day.
“Up on the cliff, they were shooting down at us,” Graziano said. “I laid down on the ground with the dead soldiers.”
He described getting a flamethrower and taking out machine guns high above him.
A young master sergeant, Graziano was 22 years old when he went into battle.
There were also stories Tuesday that brought a smile to his face. He met his wife in France, finding love in the midst of war.
Graziano, who now lives in Georgia, wrote down notes all those years during the war, and recently published a book about his experiences.
He said young people need to learn about these aspects of history to understand what he and other soldiers went through.
“They would appreciate it later in life, I think,” he said.
He left an impression on many other visitors Tuesday.
“It’s just an inspiration to hear his story. There’s not many of them left,” Oregon resident and veteran Bruce Turner said of World War II veterans.
The admiration is shared by Graziano's family.
“He is an inspiration. Everything about him inspires me to be a better man, to be a better person, to be a better Christian. He’s just a wonderful human being,” said Terry Evans, Graziano’s son-in-law.
It was members of his family who convinced Graziano to share his story, giving the world one more account of the sacrifice of the greatest generation.