96-Year-Old Is Only Veteran to Attend Ceremony for 77th D-Day Anniversary

by Keeli Parkey
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The 77th anniversary of D-Day – a pivotal moment in the Allied victory in World War II – is June 6, 2021. And while memorial services are planned for that day, one already took place on Friday (June 4). Unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was only one allied veteran in attendance at that special ceremony held in Carentan, France.

That veteran was 96-year-old Charles Shay, according to NYPost.com. He was only 19 years old when he was one of the thousands of troops who faced death in order to make the D-Day invasion a success. Shay was an Army medic at the time of the invasion.

Shay is a Native American. He was raised in Indian Island, Maine. He now resides in France. This allowed him to attend the ceremony on Friday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, France has had travel restrictions in place for some time. While it is a safety precaution, it has kept veterans and the families of those who died on D-Day from visiting the country for the anniversary.

“We have no visitors coming to France … for two years now,” Shay said. “And I hope it will be over soon.”

The French government plans to change those travel restrictions in the coming days. However, it will happen too late for veterans or their families to arrive in France for the ceremonies.

Veteran Charles Shay Also Plans to Represent Allied Troops During D-Day Ceremony on Sunday, June 6

Luckily for Shay, his French residency will also allow him to attend a ceremony on June 6 at the Normandy American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer. He is expected to be the only D-Day allied veteran out of the approximately 150,000 who took part in the invasion to be there.

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic keeping veterans away from the ceremonies, time is also having an impact on the number of soldiers who fought on D-Day. For example, only one French solider who fought with the Allies on that day is still alive.

It is believed that only 2,600 United States veterans who took part in the D-Day invasion are still living. This figure was shared by the National D-Day Memorial.

As they pass away, they will not be forgotten, according to veteran Charles Shay.

“In France, people who remember these men, they kept them close to their heart,” he said. “And they remember what they did for them. And I don’t think the French people will ever forget.”

Let’s hope the entire world never forgets.