WASHINGTON - To veteran Ralph Frias, the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion is one of a shrinking number of opportunities to connect with others who were with him on Omaha Beach.
Frias is among dozens of veterans and their families gathered at the National World War II Memorial here Friday to mark the anniversary of the day 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy.
"We were scared to death," Frias says of the invasion. "But at a certain point, you're not afraid anymore. You just want to stay alive."
Herman Zeitchik, a D-Day veteran, was in France for the 50th and 65th anniversaries. He says he would've liked to be there this year, but travel has become difficult as he's aged. "I'm just thankful to be here,"Zeitchik says. "It means everything in the world."
"They were brave in ways we cannot even imagine," said Susan Eisenhower after reading out the message her grandfather, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's, gave to the troops on D-Day.
"Had the operation failed, the world would be a very different place," she said.
Susan Eisenhower told the veterans gathered at the memorial that "it is our duty to those who gave their lives and to those veterans here today that we keep the story of D-Day alive."
Elliott 'Toby' Roosevelt III, great-grandson of President Franklin Roosevelt, told the assembled vets, "We are so lucky for you. May we now and in the future live up to your standards." He also read FDR's D-Day prayer.
"The men were there to free a continent and stop one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known," says Karen Cucurullo, deputy superintendent of operations for the National and Memorial Parks. "Hitler didn't know who he was up against."
The National Archives also planned a series of programs on the National Mall. This will include a screening of The True Glory, the epic filmed record of the June 6 invasion that was a joint production of the U.S. Office of War Information and the British Ministry of Information.