RALEIGH (WTVD) --Many World War II veterans received a hero's welcome home after spending the day at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia.
They've been dubbed the "Greatest Generation" for the sacrifices they made. Many never returned from D-Day battles 70 years ago.
Friday evening, 75 local veterans who survived got a welcome their fallen comrades never received.
There were several minutes of adoration from many waving the stars and stripes as three busloads of veterans fresh from the D-Day Memorial stood solemn, and soaked it all in.
"It's awesome," said Raleigh resident Pat Payne. "I'm so glad to see them getting the recognition they deserve."
Many of the WWII vets are now in their 90s including Arnold Aiken, who served as a machinist in the Pacific theater.
"My duties aboard ship was keeping the mechanical equipment," said Aiken.
Ninety-six-year-old Jane Wands was one of a few female veterans with the group. She served in the Army Nurse Corps.
"Picking up men who jumped out of burning airplanes, and they themselves were burned," said Wands. "We tried to do the best we could to keep them alive."
Charles Kane joined the veterans with the Broughton High School Band. Before the trip, he spent 30 hours sketching a depiction in honor of D-Day. Several vets signed his work.
"They love the memory, the seeing of the picture -- remembering that they were some of the people getting off the boats," said Kane.
They were those people on that fateful day on June 6, 1944 who stormed the beaches in Normandy to preserve freedom. Some give their lives.
Those who remain giving us the ultimate example of what it means to be great.
"They're a dying generation, and they need to be acknowledged," said Payne. "They're very humble and appreciative of it."
Our local group of veterans left the Triangle Thursday morning for their two-day trip, which was made possible by Operation Omaha -- a nonprofit dedicated to honoring WWII veterans.
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