SC veterans return to Normandy ahead of D-Day anniversary - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

SC veterans return to Normandy ahead of D-Day anniversary

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FRANCE (WIS) -

With the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion nearing, a group of 22 South Carolina veterans -- perhaps for the last time -- have made their way back to the fields and foxholes they once manned.

The tour of Normandy started Monday in Courselles sur Mere. It was in that small town, 70 years ago, war ravaged through the landscape and changed the lives of the 22 veterans who have chosen to come back for the 70th anniversary. As the veterans passed through the countryside, the sight of certain landmarks provided a certain nostalgia for some in the group.

"The main memory I have is just a lot of noise and confusion. Just trying to rescue a bunch of guys who lost their small boats and needed to get off the beach," Gunner's mate John Cummer said.

Cummer returns to France with the renewal of a friendship forge on Omaha Beach on D-Day during the second wave of the attack, but others have returned because they still feel the absence of those who fought and never went home.

"The saddest part?" Sixteenth Infantry regiment veteran Eiba Begemann said, "to see that some of your friends aren't coming back."

89-year-old Leif Maseng, who was a member of the 82nd Airborne
Division, was one of roughly 12,000 elite paratroopers to land in Normandy in the early hours of D-Day. For him, having the chance to pay tribute for those who died on the bloody beaches of Normandy in the height of battle is his reason for being here.

"That's where the real heroes are," Maseng said. "Coming across that beach when two-thirds of the men that did died...while I was playing around behind the lines."

While every veteran hasn't felt comfortable sharing their story today, that could change. Over the next few days, they will visit the National American Cemetery and the beaches where many of the biggest D-Day battles were fought.

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