Veterans use trip of a lifetime to revisit World War II training site

Veterans use trip of a lifetime to revisit World War II training site
(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Collierville nonprofit organization is making sure World War II veterans can return to the places where they trained and fought, in order to find closure and create more memories to last the rest of their lives.

Vince Rowell recalls his days in the Army vividly.

"I knew that a lot of men would be lost," the South Memphis native said.

Rowell joined the Army in 1943 when he was 18 years old. He endured extensive training in England for several months. He was just 19 years old when he took part in the D-Day invasion off the coast of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.

"There was [sic] bodies by the hundreds floating in the water. Men had already died," he recalled. "I heard boys crying, 'Mama, mama, I need you, mama. Come help me.'"

Rowell was also part of the Battle of the Bulge six months later.

"Lots of frostbite, a lot of nerve damage done to my legs," he said. "God had to be with me to carry me that far."

A few months later, Rowell was one of the first U.S. soldiers to liberate prisoners at Dachau concentration camp near Munich.

"I think it was one of the most terrible things I've ever witnessed in my life," he said. "We could smell it before we got there."

Now, at 93 years old, Rowell wants to take one more trip. He has already visited his old war zones, but he longs to go back to England.

"England is a little more exciting, I think, for them to return to, because they have better memories. It's not war," said Diane Hight, who is president of Forever Young Senior Veterans.

Hight started the nonprofit nine years ago to help provide honor, healing, and hope to military veterans by returning them to the places where they fought, while at the same time, sharing their stories of sacrifice with the world.

Rowell will take his trip to England with 30 other veterans on September 17. Due to their ages, it will likely be the last overseas trip that many of them ever take.

"We take a medical team with us. We have a doctor and a nurse to care for them," Hight said.

"I remember the pubs, which is a beer joint, and back then as young men, we loved to drink beer," Rowell said.

It will be the trip of a lifetime for Rowell and the other 30 men going, who are now known as the Greatest Generation.

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