World War II veteran returns to Normandy

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 10:38 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - In Normandy, France, 99-year-old Harper Coleman is as close to a rock star as it gets, and rightfully so.

“I was there 75 years ago,” said Harper Coleman, a World War II veteran, “D-Day, Utah Beach.”

On June 6, 1944, when Coleman was 22 years old, he walked off a landing craft into the water headed for Normandy at the direction of his general, Teddy Roosevelt Jr.

“I went right past, telling everyone, ‘Go, go, go.’ You’ll never forget that,” he said.

78 years later, Coleman’s family returned to the site. And while his experience this time around couldn’t have been more different, it didn’t stop the flood of memories.

“The landing craft coming in - the one beside us - blew up,” said Coleman. “But you wouldn’t believe, ships as far as you can see in all directions.”

On his recent trip, Coleman was accompanied by three people, including Aimee Coleman.

“There were some moments we saw reflection but nothing that came out verbally-- we could feel it,” said Aimee Coleman.

Harper Coleman is a man of few words, but the stories he does share pump life into words that have filled history books for decades.

“It’s always there. It’s just a bad memory now,” he said.

Coleman’s family says it gave them a deeper understanding of what he meant to so many people.

“You know I’m sitting here staring into the eyes of a woman who wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Harper and his comrades,” said Aimee Coleman. “This just really opened my eyes to how much he did for generations.”

Despite taking part in the most pivotal battle of World War II and changing the course of history, Coleman says he’s not a hero, but was just doing his job.

“The heroes are over there,” he said. “The heroes didn’t come back.”

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