Turning 97 years old next month, Army combat veteran Bill Parker still remembers fighting in World War II. Parker was in the 116th Infantry 29th Division and was one of the first soldiers to reach Omaha Beach on D-Day.
"I remember all about Omaha Beach, more than I want to. I was the leader so, I had to go across it first. Bullets weren't shooting any higher than the ceiling -- that's the reason I can't hear now," Sgt. Parker told News On 6.
Out of 1,000 men in his infantry, Parker was one of only 40 soldiers who survived. "Men were dead everywhere. Americans all over that beach dead. I remember the water was even bloody along the edges. There was so much blood in it," Parker recalled.
Mr. Parker and his men then trekked more than 600 miles across France, fighting German soldiers. He says some memories are just too painful. "I would have nightmares. My wife would wake me up and tell me 'no it's over.'"
Mr. Parker has since been decorated with awards, including a Purple Heart. He also has received The Good Conduct Medal, the Distinguished Unit Badge, and four Bronze Service Stars. Soon, The French Embassy will give him the French Legion of Honor.
"I wasn't expecting it at all. I think the French owe us all a lot for what we did," Parker admitted. He hopes others remember the sacrifices he and other soldiers made more than 70 years ago.
"World War II had to be fought. We didn't have any choice, and we don't want to do ever again," Parker added.
The Choctaw Nation also recognized Mr. Parker last month for his service, ahead of Native American Heritage Month in November. Parker is also traveling to Belgium next month to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.