Next week, America will mark the 70th anniversary of its entry into the Second World War, and a group who belongs to the dwindling population of those who fought – and survived – that war retraced their steps and paid a visit to where the fighting happened almost seven decades ago.
The trip was sponsored by the Collierville-based, non-profit organization, Forever Young. The trip will take the Veterans, most of whom survived D-Day or the Battle of the Bulge, to battle sites, cemeteries, monuments, museums, and towns across Northern Europe.
Among those who made the trip is W.T. Hardwick, who, as a 20-year-old infantryman, was among those who stormed onto Utah Beach on D-Day. The smoke and chaos that he remembers from that day, however, were no longer there, as he walked on the beach hand-in-hand with his daughter and granddaughter.
Hardwick, 87, is a retired Memphis Area Transit Authority bus driver. He shared: “I wanted to come out here to see if it brought back any memories, and it did… So many got killed and me being spared — it just doesn’t make sense.” He was captured four days after landing on Utah, and spent 10 months as a POW.
Diane Hight, founder of Forever Young, shared: “This is going to be a very healing trip.” Hight is herself the daughter and niece of Veterans of the Second World War, and she has devoted the past few years to honoring men and women who, in her own words, “saved the world.”
Forever Young was able to raise $80,000, mostly through a grant from an anonymous foundation, to pay for the Veterans’ trip through Europe.