LYNCHBURG, Va. – World War II veterans Ash Rothlein and Robert Mayne died this week.
Rothlein passed Thursday at the age of 97.
A Normandy veteran from North Carolina, he was 20 years old when he landed on Omaha Beach after D-Day.
“One of the things that he recalls very vividly when he came into the beaches, was by that point the battle had moved inland somewhat, and he just remembers seeing the rows and rows of white crosses,” said April Cheek-Messier, President & CEO of the National D-day Memorial.
Cheek-Messier knew Rothlein personally, as he visited Bedford frequently and vowed to help others.
He and his wife created a scholarship for students who serve their communities and for Virginia Tech cadets to visit Normandy.
“For us to have the scholarship fund, to be able to help students over the years, has also been extremely gratifying, and yet another way that he gave back, as well,” said Cheek-Messier.
Master Sergeant Robert Mayne died this week at the age of 98.
The New York native joined the Air Force after high school, then spent 40 years at E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg.
He started their Junior ROTC program in 1968, one of the first 50 of its kind in the country.
“He was really larger than life. He was very humble, very contrite, and he just had a very special way of connecting with students,” said Lieutenant colonel Leslie Pratt, a current JROTC instructor at the school.
Pratt knew Mayne for a decade and invited him back to E.C. Glass to share war stories once he retired in 2007.
Pratt says Mayne flew more than 70 missions as a tail gunner on B-26 bombers and was an inspiration to students.
“To have somebody come in that actually lived in and was there, and to hear that firsthand, none of these students will ever get another opportunity to hear someone like that again,” said Pratt.
But they vow to carry their legacies.
“It’s up to us as citizens, it’s an obligation that we have to make sure we are passing on their stories,” said Cheek-Messier.
To never forget the greatest generation.