Folks observe 70 year annniversay of D-Day in Bakersfield

Local veterans honored in special ceremony

BAKERSFIELD, CA -- Seventy years ago, our country lost thousands of young soldiers on the coast of Normandy. It's known as D-Day, the turning point of World War II and mankind.

Friday, Kern County marked the historical anniversary by honoring local survivors for braving it all and securing what we all have today.

At Kern Veterans Memorial Plaza, in the front row sat those willing to stand on the front line 70 years ago. They served in World War II on D-Day landing on the beaches of Normandy.

"You try to forget it all, but you can't ever forget it," said Ernest Roberts who landed on Omaha Beach in the second wave.

"I was only 18 years old. But, I had to hit the beach and the beach was up to here," said Lee Neukirechner who also landed on Omaha.

Seven survivors, local, living history were honored during a special ceremony on the anniversary.

"Very emotional, yes for me," said World War II veteran, John Grenek. "I can't say anymore. I get broken up from this celebration and I can't hold it back anymore."

Local leaders praised them with words, certificates, and medals.

Some able to stand and accept them. Others stayed seated, but were beyond moved by this show of respect and admiration.

"There were several times during the ceremony that I got choked up," said Dick Taylor, Director of Kern County Veterans Service Department. "And, to think of the things that they went through as an 18 or 19 or 20 year old. It's tough."

Parents, kids, people lined up just to shake the hands of these men who helped mold the world.

"I love that the people swarmed them and hugged them. There's nothing better. There's nothing better. This is their day," said Lili Marsh of Honor Flight Kern County.

"I think it woke up a lives, you know, and they'll understand what war was, that it was no picnic. No," said Ernest Roberts.

While the memories are there, from the beaches, the boats, and bombers, sometimes they are just too tough to share.

"Oh, I don't know," said World War II veteran Paul Gerig when asked about his memories of D-Day. "It's a thing of the past and my life was ok after, so."

Like they did seventy years ago, our veterans stood together once again, laying a wreath at the memorial, as every one else simply stood in awe.

"This is very nice, very wonderful celebration and I do appreciate it very much," said John Grenek.

Another World War II D-Day survivor, Henry Oschner, was not there for the ceremony. He was a paratrooper who landed on Omaha Beach.

Instead, he was back on Omaha Beach marking the anniversary.

He was part of a D-Day cruise that was paid for by a travel agent and our viewers who donated money for his flight.

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