Before Lawrence Brannan was a family man, farmer, and manager of an auto parts and service shop in Morristown, he was a soldier. And that soldier from East Tennessee was among the thousands of Allied troops on June 6, 1944, who stormed ashore in a hail of bombs and bullets on D-Day.
"I think about it, not a day goes by that I don't think about something that happened there," said Mr. Brannan who was part of the "third wave" on Omaha Beach in France.
Several hours into the bloody battle that, at the end of the day, saw more than 6,000 US troops dead or wounded, the pouch of explosives on Brannan's hip caught fire. He does not know how it caught fire; perhaps a round from an enemy gun ignited the TNT and set off the four grenades. The explosion shredded his clothes and sent shrapnel coursing into his chest. The blast also stripped off part of Mr. Brannan's left hand.
"I should be dead, by all means I should be dead," recalled Mr. Brannan, shaking his head. He managed to crawl his way to safety and eventually make it to a casualty pool and then aboard a ship back to England for treatment.
In a little more than two weeks, Mr. Brannan plans to return to Omaha Beach. He will help mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion during World War II. At age 94, he says he still has some unfinished business both on the beach and at the American Cemetery in Normandy.
"I just want to see the place again," he said.
VIDEOS: Classic Service & Sacrifice segments from 2006
Before Washington trip:
During Washington trip: