As World War II veteran Onofrio Zicari attended events last week marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, he had one special wish.
Zicari, 96, wanted to revisit the grave marker of a friend he’d lost on that fateful day, June 6, 1944, when Allied troops stormed French beaches, turning the tide in the war against Nazi Germany.
He said he still carried a photograph of himself standing in front of the grave of Donald E. Simmons, who died on D-Day.
“He was in the service with me. He got killed,” Zicari told ABC News’ “World News Tonight,” which traveled with him and several other U.S. veterans from across the country as they traveled back to Normandy.
For Zicari, it was his first time returning to the French shores since the war.
During a visit to the Normandy American Cemetery, the site of the first cemetery set up by the U.S. Army two days after D-Day, Zicari, originally from Geneva, New York, found Simmons’ grave site again.
“A lot of graves. Look at all the crosses. Oh boy,” he said.
What Zicari did not know was that Simmons’ family was watching him tell his story on TV.
Simmons’ nephew saw the World War II veterans’ piece featured on “World News Tonight with David Muir,” and immediately called the rest of his family, according to ABC affiliate WSYR-TV.
“I just told my wife that, ‘I got an uncle buried over there,’ and she says, ‘Who?’ And I said ‘Uncle Donald,’” Douglas Simmons of Canastota, New York, told WSYR-TV.
The TV station and a veterans group were able to connect Simmons’ family with Zicari via computer webcam. The family shared a portrait of Simmons with Zicari, and he showed them a photo of the grave marker that he’d taken on his cellphone. Zicari told the Simmons siblings that he’d known their brother since the two men were inducted into the armed forces.
“We were together all the way through it,” Zicari told Simmons’ siblings, who shed some tears and shared some laughs with him. “There were 120 of us so we all trained together. We looked out for one another…He was the last one off the landing craft.”
Zicari, who now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, enlisted in 1942 and trained in California, then was moved to Scotland and then Wales. He fought with the 5th Amphibious Brigade, 5th Wave on D-Day, and spent time during the war in France, Belgium and Luxembourg.
On D-Day, Zicari was in charge of bringing in supplies and establishing supply lines. He also fought during the Battle of the Bulge.
“I mean it was just fire over your heads all the time,” he told ABC News. “Man, I was scared. I didn’t realize what war was until that day…It was awful…To this day, I have flashbacks. I’ll smell diesel oil [and] right away I’ll think of D-Day…I just can’t help it.”
After D-Day, he and another person in his unit got separated from their group. They were displaced soldiers when they heard the war had ended.
After getting in contact with Simmons’ family, he told them that he was “thrilled” to meet them.
“Just meeting you, we feel like we love you already,” said Marie, one of Simmons’ sisters.
Before making the trip to Normandy last week, Zicari had told ABC News that he hoped the journey would bring him some “closure.” After speaking with the Simmons family, he appeared to be one step closer to that goal.
“Maybe we can get some closure here, you know,” he said to them. “Well, we’ll say goodbye for now…I’ll see you in Syracuse.”
Source: Read Full Article