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We are the fortunate ones, say WWII veterans

Eager wellwishers press around them for a snapshot or a shake of their hand, but World War II veterans marking D-Day in Normandy insist they are the "survivors, not the heroes" of the battle to free Western Europe Western Europe

The countries of western Europe, especially those that are allied with the United States and Canada in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (established 1949 and usually known as NATO).
 from Nazi rule.

From a shady bench at the American war cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Lee Allsopp looks out over the soft green slopes dotted with white crosses, to the sand dunes sand dune

Hill, mound, or ridge of windblown sand or other loose material such as clay particles. Dunes are commonly associated with desert regions and seacoasts, and there are large areas of dunes in nonglacial parts of Antarctica.
 below, where Allied troops turned the tide of the war 65 years ago.

Now a frail 85, the British D-Day veteran is one of several hundred ex-servicemen attending Saturday's commemorations in Colleville, joined by US President Barack Obama and the leaders of France, Britain and Canada.

Allsopp was a fresh-faced 20-year-old when he was parachuted into the town of Ranville, a few miles along the coast, at 01:15 am on June 6, 1944, to secure a strategic bridge, codenamed Pegasus, for the advancing Allied forces.

"It was so tragic the events of the time. You look along that cliff and the Germans were at the top, the Americans at the bottom trying to get here -- and now the poor buggers are here, but they're here for good, for ever."

"They call us heroes. We're not the heroes, we're the survivors," Allsopp said, nodding at the small crowd of well-wishers gathered to admire his service medals, hear his story told, and pose with him for a souvenir photo.

"My heroes are the lads that are here, permanently. It was a job that had to be done at the time and I was just one of those people that was old enough to be involved."

British, US and Canadian divisions, plus free fighters from France and other occupied countries, crossed a stormy English Channel English Channel, Fr. La Manche [the sleeve], arm of the Atlantic Ocean, c.350 (560 km) long, between France and Great Britain. It is 112 mi (180 km) wide at its west entrance, between Land's End, England, and Ushant, France. Its greatest width, c.  at dawn on D-Day to storm beaches codenamed Omaha, Utah, Juno, Gold and Sword in what remains the biggest amphibious assault Noun 1. amphibious assault - an amphibious operation attacking a land base that is carried out by troops that are landed by naval ships
amphibious operation - a military operation by both land and sea forces

 in history.

"People ask if we were scared before the landings," said Allsopp, whose 53rd Airlanding Light Regiment provided artillery back-up to the parachutists of the British 6th Airborne division up until the taking of Caen.

"My thoughts were simply what you have to do when you got on the ground -- I'd got a 68 wireless set strapped to my legs, to set up when we landed."

"It is a long time ago, but quite frankly it's something that never leaves you," said Allsopp, who met his wife -- a parachute packer packer /pack·er/ (pak´er) an instrument for introducing a dressing into a cavity or a wound.

1. An instrument for tamponing.

2. See plugger.
 -- during the war and to set up a newsagents' business in the English city of Nottingham.

A diminutive di·min·u·tive  
1. Extremely small in size; tiny. See Synonyms at small.

2. Grammar Of or being a suffix that indicates smallness or, by semantic extension, qualities such as youth, familiarity, affection, or
 five foot three inches tall, Allsopp jokes with a grin that he shrunk from the impact of the Normandy landings -- before conceding that he was "bloody good at the job," surviving three major World War II operations.

"I don't regret any part of this," said the British veteran, who sailed on Christmas Eve 1944 to assist US forces in the Battle of the Bulge Battle of the Bulge, popular name in World War II for the German counterattack in the Ardennes, Dec., 1944–Jan., 1945. It is also known as the Battle of the Ardennes. On Dec. , and later provided airborne support as they crossed the Rhine River Rhine River
 German Rhein

River, western Europe. Rising in the Swiss Alps, it flows north and west through western Germany to drain through the delta region of The Netherlands into the North Sea. It is 820 mi (1,319 km) long and navigable for 540 mi (870 km).
 into Germany.

One of those American troops was Robert Keck v. i. 1. To heave or to retch, as in an effort to vomit.

imp. & p. p. os> Kecked


p. pr. & vb. n. os> Kecking.]

n. 1. An effort to vomit; queasiness.
, who spent his 19th birthday on the banks of the Rhine, serving with the 83rd Infantry Division in the Battle of the Bulge and the advance towards Berlin.

Arriving in the freezing Ardennes forests on the second day of 1945, Keck was wounded in the leg and face -- he only recently had some shrapnel shrapnel

Originally, a type of projectile invented by the British artillery officer Henry Shrapnel (1761–1842), containing small spherical bullets and an explosive charge to scatter the shot and fragments of the shell casing.
 removed -- and had several near brushes with death.

"Once I was on a night patrol and I was trying to get up on the bridge when the Germans blew the bridge on me," said Keck, who told of being left for dead when his platoon was forced into a retreat.

"That's a horrible feeling. They thought I was killed. But of course I was lucky. I could tell a lot of stories like that, close calls that we had."

One of the 200 US veterans on hand to attend Saturday's ceremony in Colleville, the 83-year-old, who settled after the war in Mountville, Pennsylvania Mountville is a borough in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 2,444 at the 2000 census. Geography
Mountville is located at  (40.039797, -76.432433)GR1.
, was returning to France for the first time since 1945.

"I'm so overwhelmed," he said, looking out over the sea of white crosses. "There are so many guys that we lost that can't be with us, and I'm here. You wonder why."
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Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:Jun 5, 2009
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