Normandy Veterans Join in the Journey
During the July 2016 program American veteran Steven Melnikoff joined our group. We were so grateful to have his company.
Michael Yannaghas, our colleague in Saint-Lô and Steve’s host during our time in Normandy, shared Steve’s story.
“Steven Melnikoff is 97 years old. His father was Ukrainian, and he had emigrated to the United States in 1914. Steve landed on June 7 as a member of the 175th Regiment. He was wounded two times, at Villiers-Fossard and at Brest. Cared for in England, he returned to his unit to fight in Belgium and the Netherlands before reaching the Elbe River. He returned to the United States in January 1945, where he benefited from the GI bill enacted by President Truman to allow soldiers to resume their studies.”
Rebecca Xi, student participant, described our morning at Hill 108 (see photo above): “Our morning visit to the hedgerows in the area of Hill 108 proved to be peaceful as well as eye opening. We observed the structure of the hedgerows, fields and sunken roads, and learned the history of the so-called Hill 108, nothing more than a raised patch of land that hardly deserved the title of “Hill.” We also listened to WWII army veteran Steve Melnikoff speak about his experience fighting and getting wounded in the very same area of hedgerows. This visit opened my eyes as to the real setting and conditions of war in the days following D-day. I was touched by Steve’s account and by the enormous difficulty that each soldier had to face in taking a single hedgerow.”
When we visited the Wall of Remembrance, we were joined by British veteran Roy O’Neill. Our brief time with him was an honor.
Tenno Dogger, president of the Association Deep Respect, presented Roy’s story. “He landed near Bernières-sur-Mer with his unit, the Royal Signal Corps. He was wounded for the first time on the beach, then later two more times, at Caumont-l’Eventé and in Germany. After Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany, he continued military service in several Middle Eastern countries and in Japan, until 1948. He received the Legion of Honor in Grandcamp-Maisy, last January.”
An exceptional event for us—to be in the presence of two veterans of Normandy, men who shared their story with grace, humility, and a deep respect for their comrades who did not survive.