My husband is passionate about WW II history and holds veterans from that war in the highest esteem. As a VFW member, he was fortunate to meet and become friends with several WW II veterans, but they’ve all passed away now.

And with his connections, I was fortunate to get to know them and write about their stories. What an amazing group of men, each one of them humble about his experience and service.

For us, the opportunity to bicycle Normandy in June 2014 was an awe-inspiring experience — the countryside with its still visible bunkers from the war, plus visits to Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, and myriad other sites connected to WWII. The trip was fodder for several columns that year, the 60th anniversary of D-Day. The excerpt below is about one of the amazing stories we learned on our visit to the Utah Beach Museum.

“One story that caught our attention was that of Maj. David Dewhurst, an Army Air Force squad commander who flew the ‘final bombing run on the German stronghold WN5, moments before the Allied landing at Utah Beach,’ only to die in an auto wreck not long after returning home to Texas. I discovered later that his sons had only discovered their father’s story upon visiting Utah Beach in 2007 and seeing his name and photo.”

Imagine our surprise in March of this year when we met a WWII veteran who knew Maj. Dewhurst — who in fact, flew with him on that mission. As my husband always does, he approached the gentleman and thanked him for his service. They chatted briefly as we were leaving a restaurant. My husband was so intrigued by the man’s role in the war, that he dropped me back by our hotel and returned to speak with him further. That’s when he learned this veteran had been Maj. Dewhurst’s bombardier on that and many other missions.

The following words from David Dewhurst, Jr., captured in an article in the Daily Texan, describe his reactions to his discovery:

“‘The memorial was to my dad and it had his picture. As you’d imagine, it was pretty emotional,” Dewhurst said. ‘”I probably stood there for an hour. I couldn’t move, I just couldn’t move.’

Dewhurst said the events of that day prompted him to do two things: revitalize the museum, which he and his family have contributed millions of dollars to since that day, and to seek out the remaining members of his father’s outfit.

Dewhurst said he found four of them and, aside from asking about their experience of the war, he asked them to describe his father.

“Of course, not knowing him, I kept asking these four people that had flown with him, that had known him: how he acted, how he reacted, what kind of guy was he?” Dewhurst said. “Did he get mad? How did he handle himself? I knew that he occasionally smoked cigars: did he try to do that on bombing runs? Answer: no, but yes.”

… Dewhurst said many people share similar stories. … visiting the battle sites and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial will “make you proud to be an American. It will remind you that freedom is not free.”

In these troubled times when the news trumpets what so many think is wrong with our country, stories like this remind me what is right with it.

Award-winning author Kathy Manos Penn is a Sandy Springs resident. Find her cozy mysteries locally at The Enchanted Forest and on Amazon. Contact her at inkpenn119@gmail.com, and follow her on Facebook, www.facebook.com/KathyManosPennAuthor/.