THOMAS, W.Va.- As we mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day…the sheer magnitude of a task that faced the allies…is still difficult to comprehend. Two D-Day veterans living down the hall from each other in the same Tucker County nursing home share their stories.
“Freedom is not free. Someone has to pay for it, and we did,” said Vince DiBacco.
97-year-old Vince Dibacco was a long way from his home in Thomas, West Virginia on June 6, 1944. He found himself on the beaches of Normandy…serving in the United States Army’s 61st Medical Battalion.
He explained, “I saw a lot of carnage and saw a lot of blood. Horrific. Every time I think about it, I get tears in my eyes because it seems as though it was just last month that it happened.”
DiBacco was the message center chief for that battalion, making sure messages would get to company commanders.
“When we first landed, there was another fellow West Virginian with me. After we hit the beach, they said flare out, go in different directions. This fellow with me and I just took off together, and we hadn’t gone more than 15 steps, and that barrage opened up and I buried my face in the sand and said ‘I’m going crazy.'”
DiBacco went on to say he was lucky enough to get up, but his friend was hit with shrapnel…and did not make it.
“The sanctity of living life didn’t mean anything to them, but it meant a lot to me because I lost too many friends.”
After years of keeping those stories locked inside…DiBacco finally began to share them with his family and fellow veterans, like Bill Durham, who lives right down the hall.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, 75 years.”
93-year-old Bill Durham served with Company K, 314th Infantry, 79th Division.
“That’s where my thoughts are today. The young men that didn’t make it, the thousands that are still laying over there, that never made it back home. Our hats go off to them. They are the heroes. They are the ones that paid the supreme price, the supreme sacrifice,” said Durham.
Whether you call it post-traumatic stress disorder, survivor’s guilt or simply grief, the events of June 6, 1944, still mark the lives of the men who fought on that day.
“Freedom of liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, which no other country’s got, and we have it today because of men who gave their life.”