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How a soldier is saying ‘thank you’ to those who came before him

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Major Brian Gallavan made sure he was in place for a special ceremony. The Iraq War veteran with two tours under his belt is visiting the D-Day Memorial for the first time.

"To know that this event was happening here in Bedford… I wanted to come here and shake as many hands as I could," said Gallavan. "It is an incredible organization to be a part of."

Gallavan is part of the 116th Infantry Regiment. The famed Virginia National Guard unit whose blood was spilled on the sands of Normandy. The Henrico native says it’s an honor carrying the torch.

Major Brian Gallavan

"To see this tremendous landmark before us, it's not something that you should be proud of in Virginia. The nation should be proud of it. And we have it right here in our backyard," said Gallavan. "We just hope to make those guys proud of us as much as we are proud of them."

On this day aging WWII veterans gather to mark D-Day's anniversary. Sadly, their ranks are thinning.

"Every year there are fewer and fewer of them and we just need to take advantage of the opportunities that we have to look them to the eyes and say thank you," said Major Gallavan.

Major Gallavan is accomplishing his latest mission meeting men like Sgt. Wilbur Spangler.

Sgt. Wilbur Spangler

 

The 99-year-old from Ft. Lauderdale landed on Omaha Beach June 6, 1944 delivering men and ammo more than one dozen times in a DUKW amphibious vehicle.

During their brief meeting at the D-Day memorial, Spangler showed Gallavan photo albums filled with photographs of Spangler's time in WWII.

For Gallavan, listening to Mr. Spangler's stories is a memory worth cherishing.

"Just think of what those eyes saw that day. It is humbling. What a great American," said Gallavan.

These soldiers may be separated by generations and different wars. They remain united through their desire to serve the nation. Then and now.

"To shake their hand and to know what they have been through it makes me want to work hard and be half of the man that these guys are."

Watch CBS 6 News at 6 p.m. Thursdays for Greg McQuade's "Heroes Among Us" reports. If you know of someone CBS 6 should should feature, email heroes@wtvr.com

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.