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Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day Veteran: "Love your freedom, Because that's what we fought for. We fought for your freedom."

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Video: The veteran NBC anchor reports on the day known as the greatest invasion in the history of mankind, and the story of one man who landed on Normandy’s Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

That same year, he landed on the Normandy beach code-named Omaha in a Higgins boat launched from the U.S.S. Samuel Chase to begin the assault. Seventy years later, he brought his entire family back to France to revisit that day, which began with the sounds of his fellow troops retching over the side of the boat followed by a hail of bullets from the Germans. 

"We had overfed the troops that morning,'' DeVita told Brokaw. "They were all seasick. When we got near the beach, one particular machine gun took a liking to us and was hitting my boat. The Germans had the high ground. They were shooting down at us. It was like hitting fish in a barrel."

An emotional DeVita recalled the fear of being ordered to drop the ramp to the boat. 

"I knew in my head, even though I was a young kid, when I drop that ramp, instead of the bullets hitting the ramp, they would come into the boat,'' he said. "So the coxswain says, 'Drop the ramp,' and I made believe I didn't hear him. So he said it a second time, and I made believe I didn't hear him. 

And the third time, he says, 'Goddamn, DeVita, drop the effin' ramp. 

"We had 30 men on the boat. Three men made it to the beach. They were all wounded and some were dead." 

DeVita can still remember the sounds of soldiers in their final moments.

"You know, there's a fallacy when a man is dying — they don't ask for God,'' he said. "The last word that that they say is, 'Mama, Mama." 

Those painful memories have been with DeVita for 70 years, and he is just sharing them now with his children. Four generations of his family joined him at the beach in Omaha to honor his service. 

DeVita returned because he feels a duty to speak for the men who died that day. 

"These kids were 18, 19 years old,'' he said. "They're never gonna see their son play Little League baseball. They're never gonna walk their daughter down the aisle, and they're never gonna hold their grandchild in their arms. They had their whole life ahead of them. 

"My family thinks I'm a hero. I'm not a hero. When you go up to the cemetery above Omaha, those are the heroes. Those are my heroes." 

DeVita is hoping his family and others take a lesson from the anniversary.

"Love your freedom,'' he said. "Because that's what we fought for. We fought for your freedom."

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