Decorated WWII Veteran Returns to Normandy for 70th Anniversary of D-Day
NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. - A decorated WWII return will return to the beaches of Normandy for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.
Bob Shelato was just 19-years-old when he stormed the beaches of Normandy as a part of the largest seaborne operation in history, known as D-Day. Now, at 89, Shelato is returning to Normandy, France for the fifth time since the end of WWII to be commemorated once more.
"I was so young that when I got home I went in to get a beer at the tavern, they wouldn't allow me to come in," Shelato remembered, reflecting on just how young he was as he fought in the war.
Today, Shelato proudly wears a thinning head of gray hair --almost as proudly as he wears his favorite hat -- a World War II veteran hat, adorned with a miniature silver star.
"Yep, that's my favorite," Shelato insisted.
He spent more than two years in the military, with the majority of it overseas in Europe, leading up to D-Day.
The Normandy landings, code named Operation Neptune, would be remembered in history as D-Day -- one of the major tipping points of WWII.
D-Day was a joint operation of the Allied Forces, tens of thousands of troops stormed the beaches of Normandy under the cover of darkness.
The Normandy, France landings would go down in history as the largest seaborne assault to date.
"Normandy got hit pretty badly," said Shelato.
Men fought to the death, with great pride, and with the pressure of guiding the course of history on their shoulders.
It was a daunting thought, but it didn't stop this young soldier from becoming a hero.
Shelato's unit was ambushed by Germans.
"It was quite a traumatic moment for me," said Shelato, "to find this driver hanging out of the truck, with all these explosives in there...and the flames."
"But I managed to get him out," he said, "I was awarded the silver star from that one.
Shelato was awarded the silver star as a recognition for his bravery, amongst other awards.
He was also knighted by the French and received the Belgium medal of honor.
As Shelato prepares for his fifth trip back to Normandy since the War, he says all the medals, awards, and recognition are moving, but four simple words still mean the most.
"Thank you for serving," said Shelato, "And that's about all that's said. And that's enough."