Holding back tears as he recalled the moments from D-Day, World War II (WWII) U.S. Navy veteran Jack Gutman is encouraging military personnel to know that “you are very important.”
The former Navy corpsman — who also served in Okinawa — told Fox News on Friday about his experience serving during D-Day and how he fought a battle in the many years after with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Gutman, 93, shared his story ahead of Memorial Day weekend about the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, when he was 18 years old in Normandy assisting medical units of the Army:
“When we heard the planes going over, they had to render those bunkers useless. […] Unfortunately, the waves, the first waves and six waves coming in was having a real — they thought everything would be OK. We also thought it would be a cakewalk.”
The veteran described the experience as “very personal.”
“This has a big effect on you,” Gutman said. With tears welling, he said that as one sees “bodies laying in the water […] you realize there’s a son or a father or whatever it is that will never go home.”
In overcoming PTSD with flashbacks, Gutman pointed to his daughter in helping him to recover “and then from that point, I went and got help from [other] veterans.” With his experience of 66 years of PTSD, the veteran pleads with veterans to get help from other veterans, later adding that “there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Navy veteran offered an encouraging message to veterans and military members:
“I want you to remember one thing: Never think you’re not important. You are very important because we are a winning team, we are a chain. […] When I hit Normandy or Okinawa and I came upon a wounded person, I was Jack Gutman, corpsman first class. I was really not that important. […] However, when I came upon that wounded man and he’s pleading with those pleading eyes and he’s saying to me, ‘Doc, help me, help me,’ I became the most important man in that man’s life at that moment.”
Watch the video below:
Gutman — who wrote “One Veteran’s Journey to Heal the Wounds of War” — said he’s traveling back to Normandy for the first time since the battle, which will bring “mixed emotions” for him.
When he gets to Normandy, Gutman said that “one thing I will do I know, I will cry because I will flash back to what happened. I will salute and pray for those guys, and I promise people that I will never, ever let them be forgotten.”