Local World War II veteran returns to France for 75th D-Day Anniversary
Thursday marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II.
World leaders gathered to commemorate the daring invasion. They were joined by about 170 veterans of the Battle of Normandy.
Some of whom served WWII during D-Day, include Cleveland, Tennessee, resident 93-year-old Dick Watson.
Watson was a signalman in the United States Navy during World War II.
He had four older brothers and all of them also served in the war.
Originally from Waycross, Georgia, he enlisted in 1942, only two weeks after his 17th birthday.
"Because he was underage, he had to get his parents to sign it. So, when he gave it to my grandfather, he asked him to sign and said if you don't, I'm going to get someone else to sign it because I am going one way or the other. So my grandfather did sign it and told him that he was proud of him," said Watson’s daughter, Lou Horner.
During World War II, he spent some time at Pearl Harbor and served in Europe.
His role in D-Day was vital before thousands of troops invaded.
"He was in the Navy on a minesweeper. He was a signalman. On D-Day, they went into the English Channel before the invasion and swept the channel looking for mines," explained Horner.
Watson hoped to return to Normandy for the 70th anniversary, but it didn't happen.
With the help of family, he made it back this year for the 75th anniversary as a VIP.
"My niece, Rachel Chumney, she has just orchestrated this whole thing. She has been in cahoots with the military people, and she has been planning it for months," Horner said.
The family knew that he would have special treatment as a D-Day veteran but did not know about all the excitement that would follow.
Watson and his granddaughter Rachel were on the front row of the ceremony in France. He met President Trump and shook his hand.
"We told him that it might happen, but really didn't know for sure. But, he did. He also shook the president of Canada and France, got to shake their hands, too,” stated Horner.
Horner woke up at 4:30 in the morning to watch the coverage starting at 5:00AM.
Horner said, "At one point, I looked down, but I looked up, and I went oh there's Rachael and there's Dad!"
She was able to see him several times during the TV news coverage. She has not spoken with her father since the ceremony, but knows that he is ecstatic about the whole experience.
"Yesterday they took - this is really cool; he was actually crossing the Channel yesterday, which is what he did 75 years ago on the minesweeper," Horner explained as her father retraced his WWII path.
She wondered what was possibly going through his mind as he crossed the English Channel once more.
Dick Watson attended the University of Georgia after the war as part of the G.I. Bill.
He met his wife of 65 years there. She passed away five years ago, but their legacy continues with five kids, 11 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.