COLUMBUS (WCMH) — It has been 75 years since American troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, but Central Ohio has not forgotten their sacrifice as it was standing room only Thursday at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum’s D-Day Celebration.
“I heard the gentleman say that ‘He’s just a farm boy’ and he went to become this paratrooper, I thought that his story is probably every man’s story that served,” said former First Lady of Ohio Karen Kasich. “They were just living their lives as young 18-year-old boys, and then, took off and did what they needed to do.”
Young and old, veterans and civilians packed the room at the museum to hear D-Day Army paratrooper Don Jakeway, Coast Guard store keeper Jack Welsh, and Navy hospital corpsman Carl Strout give their accounts of World War II. Several of Jakeway’s fellow Johnstown America Legion members made the trip to show their support.
“[I came] to honor the gentleman that went on D-Day, especially Jake, because he went through a lot and basically coming out here to help support him,” said Marine Corps Vietnam veteran Jim Weant.
The crowd thrilled him.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It really is.”
“I was thrilled that it was standing room only. I was sad that my own daughters couldn’t make it. It’s just a wonderful opportunity,” she said.
Kasich made it a priority to be there.
“I just heard about this program yesterday, and I knew I had to be here,” she said. “I just have such admiration for our veterans. They’re part of the greatest generation. My father served in World War II, and I just wanted to be here to hear their stories.”
“The World War II vets are dying off pretty quick, and it’s nice to get the story out for the younger generation coming up,” Weant added.
The new memorial and museum honors these veterans everyday -— not just on big anniversaries.
“I’d like to thank them for their service and also for making the path so we can serve and follow up and hopefully we can measure up to what they did,” said Weant.
“People died for our freedom. People died for the freedom of a great continent. People [who were] just young man living their own lives, and they went off and change the world,” Kasich added. “We need to be respectful of that, and we need to remember that so it doesn’t repeat itself.”