Veteran returns to Normandy

By Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor , Jason Mealey - Producer/assignment editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - He served our country on D-Day in 1944. Saturday the St. Johns County veteran boarded a plane to head back to Normandy, all thanks to local firefighters.

The St. Johns County Fire Department came together to give 88-year-old Herb Griffin the trip of a lifetime.

"My heart can't take it. My heart's giving out on me. It's the most wonderful thing I've ever had happen to me in my life," said Griffin.

The World War II veteran is leaving his St. Johns County home for a trip to Normandy, where he fought on D-Day nearly 70 years ago.

"It's a mixed feeling. I'm going to be sad and I'm going to be happy. The people that I left behind over there, that's what I'm going for, to honor them. Because they didn't come back. We owe everything to them," said Griffin.

The 88-year-old was one of 100,000 American soldiers who made the march across Europe.  9,000 were killed or injured. Griffin injured his arm on D-Day, which earned him a Purple Heart.

"I want to see some places where I was at when I was over there where I got hurt and all this stuff, I want to see the beaches that I came in on and I kind of want to relive that," said Griffin.

It wouldn't have been possible if not for a chance encounter.

A few months ago Griffin went to the hospital for a medical emergency and an unexpected relationship formed with the firefighters of Station 2 in St. Johns County.

"He's been able to share his stories with us and we were able to capitalize on an opportunity to send Mr. Griffin back to Normandy for the 70th anniversary," said David Franklin, with the St. Johns County Professional Firefighters.

The firefighters began working to raise money to send Griffin back to France.
Jennifer Logue heard about their efforts and Griffins' story. She didn't just want to show her support by donating money, but by wishing him well in person.

"We just wanted to be here it's kind of get emotional when I think about it. How do you thank someone for risking their life for your freedoms," said Logue.

She joined dozens of others at the airport to make sure the Bronze star recipient knew just how much they appreciate him and his service.

"It's just a small token of what we owe them. We can never repay what our veterans did for this country for the freedoms we enjoy for what they did for us and so the least we can do is say thank you," said Logue.

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