Area soldier meets Obama at Normandy Beach ceremony
NORMANDY, France - A 1994 graduate of A.D. Johnston High School in Bessemer had the honor of meeting President Barack Obama at the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Beach invasion on June 6.
Army Sgt. First Class Peter Bracket, of Ramsay, also met numerous World War II veterans and mingled with the foreign residents who continue to appreciate the United States for its war contributions.
He is stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., and was one of only six members of the service out of a possible 700 who were selected to meet the president. Represented were the 101st Airborne Division, the 82nd and the 173rd.
He exchanged coins with the commander in chief.
"Those coins carry special significance for members of the service," Peter Bracket said Tuesday.
The ceremony was covered by NBC and a friend of Dave Bracket woke up in the early morning hours, unable to sleep. He saw Sgt. Bracket sitting in the front row while the president of France, Francois Hollande, spoke.
Sgt. Bracket was impressed with the overseas ceremonies that spanned nine days, including reenactments of the liberation of the countries. Locals in Holland and Belgium also celebrated the anniversary.
He said it was encouraging to see that people who live in foreign countries have not forgotten contributions of brave Americans.
The youngest World War II veteran he met, now 89, participated in the invasion of Normandy at Omaha Beach at age 16.
Sgt. Bracket is home on leave until July 6.
The D-Day landing on June 6, 1944, is one of the most famous battles in military history and marked a turning point in the war. It was the largest amphibious invasion ever, as tens of thousands of American soldiers joined with troops from Allied nations like Great Britain and Canada to invade occupied France and liberate countries from Nazi Germany and Adolph Hitler.
A 5,000-vessel armada invaded Normandy beaches. Other areas on the beach were named Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword.
By the end of the day, around 100,000 soldiers were on land.
Allied Forces suffered almost 4,000 deaths, yet the victory on the Normandy beaches led to rapid Allied advancement in Western Europe, and the liberation of France and Belgium from German occupation.
Northern France has maintained multiple large cemeteries for those who died on that day in 1944 and many Americans are buried in Normandy.