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Native American former US Army medic, 96, is the sole veteran to attend D-Day memorial event in France due to Covid travel restrictions

 A 96-year-old former US Army medic was the only veteran to attend two D-Day memorial events in France to mark the 77th anniversary of the historic invasion of Europe. 

Charles Shay, a Penobscot Native American, was the sole former combatant at Friday's ceremony in Carentan, where paratroopers landed in the early hours of D-Day, and at a commemoration at the American Cemetery later in the day in Colleville-sur-Mer, on a bluff overseeing Omaha Beach.

The cemetery contains 9,380 graves, most of them for servicemen who lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. Another 1,557 names are inscribed on the Walls of the Missing.

Shay also attended Sunday's opening of the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer, at the eastern end of Gold Beach, which several British veterans were also able to go to. 

The Native American, from Indian Island in Maine, now lives in the country he helped liberate from the Nazis aged 19. Most of his fellow brothers in arms have been unable to travel due to Covid travel restrictions. 

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

Charles Shay, a Penobscot Native American, was the sole former combatant at Friday's ceremony in Carentan, where paratroopers landed in the early hours of D-Day

Charles Shay, a Penobscot Native American, was the sole former combatant at Friday's ceremony in Carentan, where paratroopers landed in the early hours of D-Day 

Shay also went to a commemoration at the American Cemetery later in the day in Colleville-sur-Mer, on a bluff overseeing Omaha Beach (where he is pictured)

Shay also went to a commemoration at the American Cemetery later in the day in Colleville-sur-Mer, on a bluff overseeing Omaha Beach (where he is pictured) 

Shay was also present at Sunday's opening of the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer, at the eastern end of Gold Beach, which several British veterans were also able to go to

Shay was also present at Sunday's opening of the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer, at the eastern end of Gold Beach, which several British veterans were also able to go to

Shay was a 19-year-old US Army medic when he helped take mainland Europe back from the Nazis (he is pictured in the front row, with a cross on his arm) 

Some reenactors came to Omaha Beach in the early hours of Sunday to pay tribute to those who fell that day, bringing flowers and American flags

Some reenactors came to Omaha Beach in the early hours of Sunday to pay tribute to those who fell that day, bringing flowers and American flags 

A picture of an unknown soldier is seen on the shore of Omaha Beach in Saint Laurent sur mer, Normandy on Sunday - the eve of the 77th anniversary of D-Day

A picture of an unknown soldier is seen on the shore of Omaha Beach in Saint Laurent sur mer, Normandy on Sunday - the eve of the 77th anniversary of D-Day 

Florida governor Ron DeSantis today tweeted this tribute to the veterans who helped  to free Europe from the Nazis

Florida governor Ron DeSantis today tweeted this tribute to the veterans who helped  to free Europe from the Nazis 

Several ceremonies were being held Sunday to commemorate the 77th anniversary of D-Day, the decisive assault that led to the liberation of France and western Europe from Nazi control, and honor the 4,414 who fell.

On D-Day, more than 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches code-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats. 

This year on June 6, the beaches stood vast and nearly empty as the sun emerged, exactly 77 years since the dawn invasion.

For the second year in a row, anniversary commemorations are marked by virus travel restrictions that prevented veterans or families of fallen soldiers from the U.S., Britain, Canada and other Allied countries from making the trip to France. Only a few officials were allowed exceptions.


At the newly-built British Normandy Memorial near the village of Ver-sur-Mer, bagpipes played memorial tunes and warplanes zipped overhead trailing red-white-and-blue smoke. 

Socially distanced participants stood in awe at the solemnity and serenity of the site, providing a spectacular and poignant view over Gold Beach and the English Channel.

The new monument pays tribute to those under British command who died on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy.


Shay, 96, looks around the The British Normandy Memorial during it's official opening on the 77th anniversary of D-Day on Sunday 

Shay walks past the Memorial Monument of the Normandy American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy in Sunday

Shay walks past the Memorial Monument of the Normandy American Cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy in Sunday 

Shay during Sunday's event at the American cemetery, one of several anniversary commemorations to take place in France

Shay during Sunday's event at the American cemetery, one of several anniversary commemorations to take place in France 

Shay (centre) as a young child. The Native American is from Indian Island in Maine and served in both WWII and the Korean War

Shay (centre) as a young child. The Native American is from Indian Island in Maine and served in both WWII and the Korean War 

In an undated image provided by the Charles Shay Family Archive, the veteran poses in native dress as a young boy in Indian Island, Maine.

In an undated image provided by the Charles Shay Family Archive, the veteran poses in native dress as a young boy in Indian Island, Maine.

Shay was the only veteran to attend the ceremony in Carentan commemorating the 77th anniversary of the assault that led to the end World War II. Shay was a 19-year-old U.S. Army medic when he landed on Omaha Beach
He is also pictured as a young man in his Army uniform

Shay was the only veteran to attend the ceremony in Carentan commemorating the 77th anniversary of the assault that led to the end World War II (left). He is also pictured as a young man in his Army uniform 

With extensive travel restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, commemorations of the pivotal WWII operation are smaller affairs this year, with most veterans marking the occasion closer to home. Pictured: Shay in Ver-Sur-Mer

With extensive travel restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, commemorations of the pivotal WWII operation are smaller affairs this year, with most veterans marking the occasion closer to home. Pictured: Shay in Ver-Sur-Mer 

A close up of Shay as he smiles after the official opening ceremony of the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer on Sunday

A close up of Shay as he smiles after the official opening ceremony of the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer on Sunday 

Shay speaks with French defence minister Florence Parly and British veteran David Mylchreest, 97, prior to an official opening of the British Normandy Memorial on Sunday

Shay speaks with French defence minister Florence Parly and British veteran David Mylchreest, 97, prior to an official opening of the British Normandy Memorial on Sunday 

A view of the British Normandy Memorial, at Ver-sur-Mer in France after it was opened during a ceremony on Sunday

A view of the British Normandy Memorial, at Ver-sur-Mer in France after it was opened during a ceremony on Sunday

Handout photo issued by the Normandy Memorial Trust of French Air Force Patrouille de France Team performing at the official opening ceremony of the British Normandy Memorial on Sunday

Handout photo issued by the Normandy Memorial Trust of French Air Force Patrouille de France Team performing at the official opening ceremony of the British Normandy Memorial on Sunday 

World War II reenactors pay tribute to soldiers at dawn at the shore of Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, Normandy on Sunday

World War II reenactors pay tribute to soldiers at dawn at the shore of Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, Normandy on Sunday 

During the offensive, German defences were unexpectedly strong, which led to unexpectedly heavy casualties - and some estimates suggest as many as 5,000 US soldiers were killed or wounded in the attempt to take the beach

During the offensive, German defences were unexpectedly strong, which led to unexpectedly heavy casualties - and some estimates suggest as many as 5,000 US soldiers were killed or wounded in the attempt to take the beach 

At Omaha in particular the pre-landing bombardment had little effect on the German defensive positions and disembarking US troops were met with fierce volleys of gunfire and heavy artillery

At Omaha in particular the pre-landing bombardment had little effect on the German defensive positions and disembarking US troops were met with fierce volleys of gunfire and heavy artillery 


Visitors stood to salute the more than 22,000 men and women, mostly British soldiers, whose names are etched on its stone columns. Giant screens showed D-Day veterans gathered simultaneously at Britain´s National Memorial Aboretum to watch the Normandy event remotely. Prince Charles, speaking via video link, expressed regret that he couldn't attend in person.

On June 6, 1944, 'In the heart of the mist that enveloped the Normandy Coast ... was a lightning bolt of freedom,' French Defense Minister Florence Parly told the ceremony. 'France does not forget. France is forever grateful.'

Another veteran of the Battle of Normandy, British Capt. David Mylchreest, was also present. He landed with his team in Normandy on June 12, 1944, to replace officers who had died in the first days of the fight.

Most public events have been canceled, and the official ceremonies were limited to a small number of selected guests and dignitaries.

Denis van den Brink, a WWII expert working for the town of Carentan, site of a strategic battle near Utah Beach, acknowledged the 'big loss, the big absence is all the veterans who couldn't travel.'

'That really hurts us very much because they are all around 95, 100 years old, and we hope they´re going to last forever. But, you know...' he said.

'At least we remain in a certain spirit of commemoration, which is the most important,' he said.

Over the anniversary weekend, many local residents have come out to visit the monuments marking the key moments of the fight and show their gratitude to the soldiers.

French World War II history enthusiasts, and a few travelers from neighboring European countries, could also be seen in jeeps and military vehicles on the small roads of Normandy.

Some reenactors came to Omaha Beach in the early hours of the day to pay tribute to those who fell that day, bringing flowers and American flags.

On D-Day, 4,414 Allied troops lost their lives, 2,501 of them Americans. More than 5,000 were wounded. On the German side, several thousand were killed or wounded.

Normandy has more than 20 military cemeteries holding mostly Americans, Germans, French, British, Canadians and Polish troops who took part in the historic battle.

Dignitaries stressed the importance of keeping D-Day's legacy alive for future generations.

'In the face of the threats of today, we should act together and show unity,' Parly said, 'so that the peace and freedom last.'

The British D-Day memorial features the D-Day Sculpture by British sculptor David Williams-Ellis, the D-Day Wall featuring the names of those who fell on D-Day itself and, on 160 stone columns, the names of those others who lost their lives between D-Day and the Liberation of Paris at the end of August 1944.

The site also includes a French Memorial, dedicated to the memory of French civilians who died during the D-Day landings.

The monument at Ver-sur-Mer in France has cost almost £30million and was built after a long-running veterans' campaign was joined by the Mail and its generous readers, leading to a major grant from the Government's Libor fund.

The 52-acre site was inaugurated in 2019, when then prime minister Theresa May and French president Emmanuel Macron unveiled a bronze sculpture that forms the centrepiece of the new memorial.

Since then craftsmen and women have erected 160 stone pillars engraved with the names of the 22,442 British servicemen and women who gave their lives in the D-Day landings and Battle of Normandy in 1944.

A D-Day Wall records the names of those who fell on the day itself, while the pillars memorialise those killed between June 6 and the Liberation of Paris in August 1944, including aircrew and nurses who died on board sinking hospital ships. 

A veteran is assisted during the official opening of the British Normandy Memorial in France via a live feed, during a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, England

A veteran is assisted during the official opening of the British Normandy Memorial in France via a live feed, during a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, England 

Veterans sing as they watch the official opening of the British Normandy Memorial in France via a live feed, during a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, England

Veterans sing as they watch the official opening of the British Normandy Memorial in France via a live feed, during a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, England 

A veteran reacts, while watching the official opening of the British Normandy Memorial in France via a live feed in England

A veteran reacts, while watching the official opening of the British Normandy Memorial in France via a live feed in England  

As the sun rises over the French village of Ver-Sur-Mer, British piper Steve Black plays to commemorate the fallen soldiers in a poignant scene. The names of those 22,442 men and women who lost their lives during the invasion of Nazi-occupied France are now inscribed on the pillars at the British Normandy Memorial

As the sun rises over the French village of Ver-Sur-Mer, British piper Steve Black plays to commemorate the fallen soldiers in a poignant scene. The names of those 22,442 men and women who lost their lives during the invasion of Nazi-occupied France are now inscribed on the pillars at the British Normandy Memorial

Alongside the British service personnel, the site also includes a memorial to the estimated 20,000 French civilians who lost their lives in the liberation

Alongside the British service personnel, the site also includes a memorial to the estimated 20,000 French civilians who lost their lives in the liberation

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