LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (FOX11) - Thursday, June 6th marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
95-year-old Bernie Trifoso of Laguna Niguel walks with the help of a cane. But time has not dimmed the sparkle in his eyes, the spirit of his conversation. He told us he couldn't believe 75 years had passed since the Normandy invasion. "It seemed like it was yesterday", Trifoso said.
For Bernie, and many in his generation, those wartime memories have been locked away for years and few soldiers spoke about them. But a couple years ago, Bernie began talking about his wartime experience and the stories began to spill out.
At 19 years old, he enlisted in the Coast Guard. World War II was raging. He and a buddy, with help of his friend's mom, decided which branch of the armed services to join. Service to one's country was something that came naturally in this big, first generation Italian-American Trifoso Family. Four boys, served in World War II. And, miraculously, all four returned home safely. Bernie was the only son to fight on D-Day.
D-Day remains one of the most famous military actions in history and is widely credited with ending World War II. Thousands gave their lives. Yet Trifoso balked at calling himself a hero.
As a medic he was charged with providing medical aid to the injured on the boat. He said the "real heroes" were the guys still seasick from the voyage over, who disembarked from the ship, waded through water "up to their chest" to make shore. Once inland, they almost immediately were engaged in fierce combat with the Germans. Many died there on that very day.
He described poignantly "the quiet" of hundreds of young American soldiers celebrating mass and receiving communion two days prior to D-Day. Many he said were in effect, receiving " Last Rites."
And he spoke lovingly of taking his wife back to Normandy to share his wartime memories. Sadly, today she has Alzheimer's and was not there when we interviewed him. He calls her "the love of his life."
Trifoso asked that we remember those "who bravely sacrificed so that we could enjoy our lives."