San Antonio nonprofit ‘Walk Among Heroes’ brings 99-year-old veteran back to Normandy

SAN ANTONIO – Eighty years ago, Dennis Boldt landed at Normandy. Thursday was the first time Boldt walked Omaha Beach in France since he fought the Germans.

As Boldt slowly makes his way across the French sand, he is helped by Jeff Wells, himself a veteran, who calls San Antonio home.

“We go to a ceremony, and I can’t get him out of the ceremony,” Wells said. “There’s (sic) so many people around him, wanting his autograph and taking his picture. Women kissing him on the cheek. It’s magical to see.”

The two men have a connection forged in thankfulness and a veteran brotherhood. Boldt, who served in 1944, and Wells, who served in 2009, are both in France for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that effectively ended World War II.

Wells runs “Walk Among Heroes,” a nonprofit organization based in San Antonio. Wells has been documenting Boldt’s journey back to a place that changed his life and the world.

“I had lunch with a four-star general. I’m a PFC. I mean, how blessed can I be?” Boldt said.

At 99 years old, Boldt said he’s on cloud nine, but he is a member of a dwindling group: D-Day veterans.

“Oh, the destruction. The Germans put up a tremendous resistance,” Boldt said. “They had to be forced out.”

Boldt said he remembered carrying a 40-millimeter anti-aircraft gun, scanning the skies for enemy planes and moving from the sand to the French streets.

“The streets were sometimes congested with people trying to get out of there to save their lives and us moving forward to encounter the enemy,” Boldt said.

The opportunity for veterans to return to the battlefields they fought on, is part of Wells’ mission: to make sure heroes like Boldt are celebrated and honored.

“The key to me is really making sure that we bridge that gap between generations,” Wells said. “We have the Greatest Generation here, but there are lots of other veterans. San Antonio has one of the largest veteran populations in the country, and so, we want to get as many of them over here to experience this as possible.”

Wells and Boldt have been on this tour, which was made possible by “Walk Among Heroes,” together. What a walk they have shared: the ceremonies, the battlefields, the cemeteries.

“I had the privilege of sanding a cross of an individual that was in my unit, who had not made it,” Boldt said. “I was able to sit there and offer a prayer to his family.”

“I hope that they understand and take the true meaning of what these guys did, what the world was going through and (what) they did to stop it,” Wells said. “And, most importantly, understand that we can never do this again.”

Never again: a lesson not lost on a man who sets up these trips, or his new friend, a humble hero who — on Thursday’s 80th anniversary — is thinking of his friends who never left Normandy and could not celebrate D-Day’s successes.

“They and their parents would have wanted them to be here at the 80th anniversary,” Boldt said. “They were the ones who made it possible for us to have it today.”

“Walk Among Heroes” is supported by donations and the trips they offer to people who would like to visit historic sites, like Normandy. Click on this link for more information.

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