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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

At D-Day Observance, a Vow "to Never Forget"

By Philip Walzer

Approximately 50 people gathered in the Batten Arts and Letters auditorium on June 6 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

"The past is always present, as long as we promise to never forget," said the keynote speaker, Alicia DeFonzo, a lecturer in English at Old Dominion University who has written about her late grandfather's experience fighting during World War II.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, nearly 160,000 American, British and Canadian soldiers landed on France's Normandy coast, taking the first step to liberate Western Europe from Nazi Germany's grip.

"The GIs were anxious enough," DeFonzo said, "and General Eisenhower had kept them waiting, all 160,000 men, lingering in the choppy Atlantic. Ike intended to attack June 5but needed the full moon of June 6 to illuminate the cliffs and calm the tides. ...

"On they fought," she said. "A duty dance with death. Allied casualties on June 6 alone have been estimated at 10,000 killed, wounded and missing in action: 6,603 were Americans. ... Despite miscalculations and losses, D-Day changed the course of history and would be known as 'the beginning of the end of the war in Europe.'"

Robert Clark, director, military activities liaison and special projects, also spoke at the commemoration.

"Eisenhower," he said, "masterfully motivated these young sailors, soldiers and airmen to fight to the bitter end despite knowing the overwhelming enemy that lay ahead of them. We as a nation owe an unpayable debt of gratitude to these brave and dedicated sailors, soldiers and airmen for the freedoms we enjoy today."

DeFonzo's grandfather, Anthony DelRossi, had quit his welding job in Philadelphia to serve as a combat engineer in the Army, DeFonzo said. His role that day was to drive a munitions truck.

"DelRossi, like thousands and thousands of others, was there from D-Day to victory in Europe," she said. "He would go on to liberate two concentration camps - the only sight he wished he could banish from memory. He knew then the work of tyrants."

After he came home, he summed up his experiences this way: "We had just been to hell."

Timothy Burleigh, a music education major, played "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Taps" on the trumpet.

DeFonzo said she coordinated the event "to salute those who risked it all for what was right and freed the world. For the 75th anniversary, we wanted the ceremony to honor those unforgettable words 'Never Forget' and remember the past."

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