Tennessee remains home to 36,000 World War II veterans.
For them, June 6th is a day forever etched in their life history.
68 years ago Wednesday, a 24-year-old East Tennessee native, Lawrence Branan, landed on the beaches of Normandy, France. He was one of 160,000 allied troops.
"It's as real right now as it was that day," said Lawrence Branan, 92, of Morristown. "A lot of people died. My first batallion lost 800 people on the beach,"
"You can't forget something like that," said Roy Teffeteller, 88, of Maryville. "It was a few days after D-Day that we landed in France."
Both are survivors of the D-Day invasion that claimed 9,000 Allied troops lives. Branan made up his mind early that he was going to get out of there alive.
"I wasn't scared. I was not going to die that day. I knew it," he said.
But he had many close calls, including one that nearly killed his commander.
"The Germans shot me and it went right by my ear and took a side of his face off," Branan said.
Not 30 minutes later, the four hand grenades and TNT strapped to his stomach exploded.
"I knew I was dead. I had to be," he said. The explosives shot away from him.
He was missing his hand but he was alive. He crawled a quarter of a mile to find medical attention and he didn't leave his commander behind.
"With his left hand hanging onto my heel. I took him to get medication where he could get his face patched up," he said.
When the chaos subsided, it was Teffeteller's job to survey what little was left. The combat engineer says he's never seen anything like it since.
"You could see the damage all around the coast. It was bombed, devastated," Teffeteller said.
After the war, both men came back to East Tennessee to work and raise their families. But neither will ever forget how June 6, 1944 changed their lives.
"It was a time in my life that I'm proud of," said Branan.
The D-Day invasion allowed 100,000 allied troops to march across Europe to defeat Hitler.