80 years since D-Day: SA veterans reflect on sacrifices made by those who fought for freedoms in Normandy

Charlie O’Connors has met countless warriors over the years. He recalls the recent passing of WWII veteran Bennett Stampes, who was 100 years old.

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio veterans were reminded this week of the sacrifices made by the tens of thousands of troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. 

It’s been eight decades since the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, a pivotal operation during World War II that led to the Allies liberating German-occupied western Europe.

Air Force veteran Charlie O’Connors has met countless warriors over the years who served in numerous conflicts around the world. He advocates for veterans as a military liaison with the nonprofit organization Wish for Our Heroes, which provides assistance for active-duty military service personnel and, in some cases, veterans.

O’Connors recalls Bennett Stampes, who took part in the Battle of the Bulge and was looking forward to visiting Normandy. The Battle of the Bulge was the final major German offensive before Allied troops fought their way toward Berlin. 

Stampes, who served in the U.S. Army, passed away on May 25 at age 100 in San Antonio, just days before his much-anticipated trip to France.

“He said, ‘Charlie, I feel like I’m 16, I’m ready to go.’ I wished him luck and wished him a safe journey,” O’Connors said.  

Reid Clanton is still alive at 99 years old, keeping strong and humble alongside his wife in Spring Branch. The Army veteran landed on Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy.

More than 4,400 Allied troops were killed on June 6, 1944, according to the National D-Day Memorial Foundation. The ensuing Battle of Normandy resulted in more than 200,000 Allied casualties.

In 2022, Clanton was honored at Fort Sam Houston, decades after being discharged with no formal recognition for his service.

Leadership with U.S. Army North surprised Clanton with long-overdue medals.

Clanton has since returned to Normandy, honoring the fallen and greeting fellow veterans.

“Reid is doing very well. They don’t ever complain about anything. They’re very stoic, very proud of their country,” O’Connors said. “Even after the last World War II veteran passes away, we’ll continue to remember what they did for this country and for the world.”

San Antonio native Tony Roman knows the horrors of war, having survived the battlefields of Vietnam. Roman enlisted in the Marines when he was 19 years old, and was wounded in combat twice.

“I have two Purple Hearts,” Roman said who is Texas Chief of Staff of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

The Vietnam Marine veteran reflects on the many war stories he’s heard over the years, including the ones about the D-Day landings.

“I can’t imagine the landing crafts going into land on the beach,” he said. “That was it, you walked into the fire.”

From one generation to another, Roman only hopes for a greater appreciation and sense of patriotism among Americans.

“People say, ‘What is freedom?’ Freedom, sometimes, we take it for granted,” he said. “Because of the bravery and the tenacious that they made, we are free.”


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