Denver veterans group arrives in Normandy ahead of D-Day 75th anniversary

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CHERBOURG, France -- With applause and a salute, their second invasion of Normandy is underway.

D-Day survivors traveling with a Denver veteran's charity, The Greatest Generations Foundation, arrived in France late Sunday.

For Dennis Trudeau, who turned 94 a day earlier, this trip on a ferry across the English Channel from Britain to France - returning him to the beaches of DDay - was the perfect birthday present.

"It's just a Godsend, that's all I can say," Trudeau told FOX31.

"I never dreamed in all my years that I would be able to come back," he said.

As a teenager, he was only on the ground for a few hours on D-Day, 75 years ago. A paratrooper, he jumped in to France during the early morning hours of June 6, 1944 and was taken captive by the Germans just 10 hours later. He was held prisoner of war at a Nazi labor camp for most of the next year.

"I weighed 135 (pounds) when I was captured, and I weighed 85 (when I was released) so (I lost) about 50 pounds I guess. Nothing but skin and bones," Trudeau said.

Eugene "Doc" Deibler hasn’t been back to Normandy in 75 years, when he also jumped out of an airplane early the morning of June 6, 1944.

"We were very anxious (that morning), it's like being anxious before you get married? You know, that kind of anxiety. Not fear but just anxious," Diebler said.

They’re two of a handful of history makers headed to the world’s most famous battleground this week. They were brought here by a Denver-based charity called The Greatest Generations Foundation. The organization has spent the last decade and a half returning war heroes to the far-flung places they once served - at no cost to the veterans.

As Trudeau and Diebler stepped foot in France Sunday for the first time in decades, they were greeted with thunderous applause, tears, handshakes and photographs from thankful Europeans who appreciate the role these men played in ending the deadliest war in human history.

Their first Normandy invasion was pretty intense. This one is a lot easier to handle.

"I asked the Lord when I was flying over (on D-Day)... and I said, 'Lord, give me one more sunrise. Look how many he's given me. Thank the Lord," Trudeau said.

FOX31 is the only Denver TV station in Normandy this week, reporting on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Be sure to join us for new stories every night this week at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.

And tune in Saturday, June 8 at 9:30 p.m. for a FOX31 Serving Those Who Serve special, "D-Day 75: The Final Reunion."

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