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As he heads out to Louisville International Airport on Saturday morning to begin a trip to visit three war memorials at the nation’s capital, John Miles of Bagdad said he will be remembering a day he lived through 68 years ago.
A day he lived through, but so many of his friend didn’t – D Day.
“It was like time had no meaning, with what was happening around us,” he said. “I was scared; we all were. If you were breathing, you were scared.”
Miles’ Army Air Corps unit lost 300 men at Utah Beach in the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, an assault involving five beaches that cost the lives of more than 5,000 American soldiers in a single day.
Miles, a retired dairy farmer, born and raised in Bagdad, is one of more than two dozen veterans chosen this year to participate in Kentucky Honor Flight.
He will be accompanied by his son Bill Miles, a vice president of PNC Bank in Cincinnati, on a 4-day trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial, the Korean Wear Memorial and the Marine Corps Iwo Jima Memorial.
Candi Waford, spokesperson for Shelby Energy, one of the Kentucky Touchstone Cooperatives funding Honor Flight, said other states have similar programs in place, sponsoring a veteran from each of their service areas by paying for their trip to the memorials as Veterans Day approaches.
She said the Kentucky Honor Flight, based in Louisville, is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization created to honor veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., giving top priority to senior veterans, particularly World War II vets, as well as vets who are terminally ill.
“I get to go along this year as a chaperone, to help look after those vets that do not have a family member to accompany them,” she said. “I’m really excited about it, but I know it’s going to be emotional. I plan to take a lot of tissues.”
John Miles said he is looking forward to the trip very much, because it will his way of paying respect to those that died beside him on Utah Beach that day.
“There were so many people killed that day, and I will be thinking about them when I’m there [World War II Memorial],” he said. “I will be glad to see the memorial, to see that those who didn’t get back are recognized. That monument, it is for them.”
John Miles and his wife, Margaret, have three sons, Bill, John and David, who lives near the capitol and will be joining his father and brother on Saturday, making for a mini-family reunion, Bill Miles said.
He added that for his father, the men who fought alongside his dad on D-Day were family as well, and he has kept in touch with them throughout the years.
“That crowd has been dwindling down over the years, and there are only three of them still living, but he [father] still keeps in touch with them,” Bill Miles said. “I guess when you go through something like that together, you are bonded for life.”
John Miles said he is ready now to make the trip to the memorial, a trip he has been thinking about making for many years.
“I know I will be sad. But I will be glad, too, because I need to remember them. We all do,” he said. “You know, they talk about this [trip] being for heroes. But it’s really not. I’m not a hero. The heroes are ones who didn’t come back.”