Holyoke soldiers home thanks D-Day veterans - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Holyoke soldiers home thanks D-Day veterans

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As the world honors D-Day's fallen, the Holyoke Soldiers Home paid special recognition to several veterans who fought that day.

A ceremony was held to remember the sacrifices made in 1944, when Operation Overload, known as Operation Neptune began.

Four D-Day veterans were honored Friday morning; Normand Drapeau, Joe Lenarcen, Francis Schoenrock and Harry Lonczak. 

Drapeau, who was born in Holyoke, joined the Navy when he was 17. Just one year after enlisting, he was fighting on the front lines on Omaha Beach. He said today is an emotional day for him, to remember where he was 70 years ago.

"After we got hit we went up with the armory on Omaha Beach and the sight was unbelievable. Unbelievable. Every kind of a wound. Omaha Beach was covered. Took a lot of casualties that day," Drapeau said. 

He was wounded twice during the D-Day landings. 

Joe Lenarcen landed on Omaha Beach at age 18. He was a signal man and it was his first mission. Only half of his unit survived. 

Lenarcen and his wife returned to Normandy 30 years later.

Francis Schoenrock provided gasoline for the tanks and drove paratroopers on D-Day. He chooses to remember those that didn't return home.

"Lot of guys that you'll never see again you know, they're gone. They were young kids, never had a chance to live, just out of high school, you know," Schoenrock said. 

Harry Lonczak received a Purple Heart during his time in the Navy. He is only one of six sailors remaining from his unit today. 

The vets were given official U.S. Navy hats with World War II service pin and a U.S. Navy service pin with their name and D-Day veteran inscribed. 

A toast was made to the veterans to honor their difficult days. 

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