June 6, 1944, was 'longest day' for Triangle D-Day veterans
Posted June 5, 2014 6:24 p.m. EDT
Updated June 5, 2014 6:50 p.m. EDT
Fort Bragg, N.C. — About 75 D-Day veterans from the Triangle departed from Raleigh Thursday for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., to commemorate Friday's 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II.
Although many moved slowly – some with canes, some in wheelchairs – their memories of the historic event that eventually liberated France from Nazi Germany come rapid-fire.
On June 6, 1944, Jack MacNaughton was a 19-year-old sailor watching other men his age – practically boys – fall around him.
"I can still see everything, basically, in my mind – things you never forget. It was the longest day of my life. The day I thought would never end," he said.
"(I) have a strange guilt feeling – why did I get through it? I saw death all around me. Those poor guys, a lot of them never set foot on that beach."
MacNaughton never thought he would make it home. So did many others.
"I was so dadgum scared – I didn't know what I was thinking – but it was dangerous," said Elton Price, also a sailor among the first wave of Allied troops to land in France.
Price and his two brothers all fought in World War II. They all came home, and together, they left Thursday for Virginia on a journey to remember the unforgettable.
MacNaughton kept the memories muted until he visited Normandy more than a half century later. His son Kevin, born in 1954, just returned.
"It was something I needed to experience and see, through his eyes, what he went through," Kevin MacNaughton said.
And now, father and son will commemorate that endless day.
The group will return to Raleigh Friday night, and the public is invited to welcome the veterans home with fanfare at Dorton Arena at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, beginning at 6:30 p.m.