WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A very special man can be found at the Woods at Holly Tree retirement facility. What many may not know is that John DeChesere was a young Army officer on Utah Beach during the Normandy Invasion.
At 101 years old, he has seen a lot in his time.
"It's been exciting, I’ve done a lot of things,” DeChesere said.
But there was a moment in his life he doesn't like to talk a lot about. It was June 6, 1944, famously known as D-Day. DeChesere was an Army Logistics Officer for the 1st Engineer Brigade on Utah Beach. “Our company was responsible to get all of the tanks off the ships and unload the men to get on the beach,” DeChesere said.
Fighting in Normandy was fierce and bloody. Images of the carnage are stained in his mind. "The day after we landed over there we got hit by some German airplanes and we lost about 80 people from our outfit,” DeChesere said. “The clerk and I went out picking up these bodies and put them in the truck and took them to the First Aid station."
As Allies continued to push inland on the Germans, DeChesere and his unit kept them supplied with weapons and ammunition, but his job didn't stop there. "I remember rescuing a few people, but I was never decorated for any bravery. As my Colonel told me, I was doing my job,” DeChesere said.
His company eventually made it to Belgium, where the end of the war finally came, known as “V.E. Night.” He still holds onto a picture from what he calls a glorious day.
"We were packed up and ready to go to the Pacific. We had everything ready,” DeChesere said. ”All we had to do is get on a boat and get going and this happened and we didn't have to go. "
The fight was a key Allied success in France. For DeChesere, it's a page in his personal memory book.
These days, the 101-year-old spends his time shooting pool, even taking on fellow residents in a heated game of Wii bowling.
And he still finds time to do something good for the community. Every year during Christmas, DeChesere makes ornaments and sells them. He gives all of the proceeds to Hospice.
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