June 6th, 1944, the largest sea borne invasion hit the beaches of Normandy by surprise attack. That day is now known in history as "D-Day." Three million soldiers fought that day to help break the Nazi grip on Germany. Now more than 60 years later, NewsChannel 11 was able to catch up with a local World War II Veteran who was injured three different times, but lived to make it home to his wife of now 65 years. NewsChannel 11's Jennifer Vogel has his story.
Recent statistics say 1,500 World War II Veterans die everyday. We had the proud honor to interview a decorated World War II Veteran who was with the 90th Infantry known as T-O, for the Texas-Oklahoma Division, that landed on the beach of Normandy and lived to tell about it.
"I didn't choose to go, Uncle Sam did that for me." Lester Dunn was 21-years-old, married just one year to his sweetheart Aileen, when Uncle Sam called him to duty in 1942.
"I had 17 weeks of basic training, then set sail for England. When I landed in England, I was there just six weeks before the Normandy invasion, and then, made the invasion on D-Day." Three million soldiers waited for the order to jump off the boats and swim to the beach of Normandy. Thousands were killed before they ever hit land. "I got off the boat and there was a bigger guy in front of me. I saw a bullet hit him and I knew the way it hit him, he was dead. So I got in back of him and fell to the beach when he did, and I could hear the bullets fly by my head. I know he saved my life on D-Day."
Lester would live to see another battle, but not without injury. Three days into Normandy, Lester was hit with shrapnel. "That's when I got the first purple heart."
A couple weeks later, Lester was in battle surrounded by bursting shells. When the battle ended, a medic noticed Lester's bloody jacket. "I had shrapnel from my shoulder clear down to my... Clear down." To this day, pieces of shrapnel are still lodged deep inside Lester's body.
"The third time I was wounded was at the battle of Saint-Lo." Lester Dunn earned his third Purple Heart after surviving a concussion from a blast. "A pick up crew came to pick up the dead, and they found me. I was still alive."
Lester spent three days of his life unconscious. When he awoke, he was once again on the beach of Normandy. But for the first time, he was at peace. "The good Lord was with me all the way."
After fighting in battles, surviving the odds, and helping to free the world from Nazi Germany, we asked what Memorial Day meant to a War Veteran like Lester Dunn, and he kept his answer short but sweet. "(Sighs) means everything."
Lester and Aileen Dunn have two children and are going on 66 years of marriage. Lester is not only a well decorated soldier, but has also been recognized for his 4,000 hours of volunteer services for the V.A.
|A United Tribute- Memorial Day 2006|