Ask James Self about the day he stormed a beach in Normandy, France, and the East Tennessee native reminds you he was, "one of the lucky ones."
"Well, I just wasn't where the bullets were hitting I guess," said Mr. Self, who was part of the second wave ashore during the D-Day invasion along Utah Beach, June 6, 1944. The 89-year-old Army veteran is among a rare group of soldiers who not only fought in Europe, but later received orders to ship out for the Pacific Theatre. Flipping through a book of pictures from his time in the service Mr. Self said there was only one benefit to facing that double duty.
"Well, I got to come home for a week, and I enjoyed that," he said with a wry smile and a chuckle.
A typhoon would keep his unit out of the initial invasion of Okinawa, Japan and three months later he left the Army for good after close to two years of service.
In addition to the on-camera interview, Mr. Self also agreed to answer the following questions about his military service and the influence it has had on the rest of his life.
1. What one person influenced you most in life?
I guess it would have to be my mother. She was always interested in what I was doing.
2. Do you feel honored and respected for serving your country?
Yes. Greatest honor I have ever had.
3. How can people thank you for your service?
Just remember what we did.
4. How do you honor your fellow service men and women?
We get together and celebrate each other once and a while.
5. How do you think this generation of military men and women is different or similar to yours?
I'm not sure citizens now have the same respect for people in uniform as they used to.
6. What influence did your military service have on the rest of your life?
It taught me to be more respectful for my country. It helped influence me to do the right things.
7. Does your family have a history of military service?
I have one brother who was also in World War II.
8. Would you encourage younger generations in your family to join the service?
Yes. I believe I would.
9. After witnessing it, how has your opinion of war changed?
You go through a lot of things that you never realized you would have to.
10. How did your military experience shape your religious faith?
I was Christian when I went in service and helped me to believe I was doing the right thing to honor God in everything I did and that hasn't changed.