Celebrating our heroes: Wally Hurd is a D-Day paratrooper from Punxsutawney

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PUNXSUTAWNEY, JEFFERSON COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — It’s not every day you get to meet a man like Walter “Wally” Hurd.

Hurd in Normandy, France for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day in 2019

“I’m standing in the presence of somebody who you only read about in history and there he was,” Bob Lott, a Vietnam Veteran and member of Mahoning Valley VFW Post 2076, said.

You could listen to stories about him for hours and you would still want to hear more.

“I could sit here really all day and just tell stories one after the other about him,” Lott smiled. “He was an amazing guy.”

Hurd served in the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army

Lott knew Hurd for most of his life, but it wasn’t until 2013 that he learned before Hurd served as his boy scout leader, he served our country on the day that changed the war and the future of our world, D-Day.

“I said to him, ‘were you there?’ And he said, ‘oh yeah, I parachuted into Sainte-Mère-Église,'” Lott laughed. “I wish I could have seen the expression on my face when he said that because I had no idea.”

Hurd was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army. He left for WWII at just 18-years-old.

Hurd left for boot camp the day of graduation

“He was in boot camp the day of graduation,” Lott explained. “They had an empty chair there for him and his mother accepted his diploma.”

On June 6th, 1944 he paratrooped into Normandy, France and landed in Sainte-Mère-Église, which was the first town liberated from German control.

“The French don’t forget what those guys did for them,” Lott said. “They got their freedoms back because of the American GIs.”

A picture of Hurd in his uniform

Hurd passed away earlier this year, but in 2019 he made it back for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It’s a trip Lott promised to be part of.

“I said, ‘if you need an escort for the 75th anniversary, let me know and I will take you.'”

While in France, Lott captured the way the WWII veterans were treated with such respect and honor.

He talked about a parade were crowds of people stood along the streets to watch the vets pass by.

“I expected to get to watch a parade with all these military vehicles and tanks and it turned out that they had one jeep and two deuce-and-a-half trucks,” Lott said. “The veterans were in the back of the two deuce-and-a-half trucks, that was the parade. I was sort of bummed out that we weren’t going to see the parade, but then we found out that we were the parade.”

Thousands of people are in the crowds for a parade honoring WWII veterans

After the parade was over, they stopped for a brief ceremony. The heroes would then take a trip around the parking lot.

“People are standing there at that barrier just reaching out,” Lott said. “They want to touch him, shake his hand and just say thank you. I had tears in my eyes most of the way around it. To me that was the most moving part of the whole trip.”

Thousands of people, from kids to adults, were around at all times showing their love and admiration. They would listen to the stories of bravery and sacrifice from the men who helped win back their grounds.

“We had things that happened in that war that you have to think God was on our side,” Lott said. “How things could have turned out differently if just a few things had gone the other way.”

Lott and Hurd greet people after the parade

I can’t help but wonder what the world would be like today if we didn’t have veterans like Wally Hurd.

While he might not be here to tell his stories anymore, let’s continue to tell them for him so we always remember the fight for freedom.

“I think he just would like to be remembered as just normal person who did his duty,” Lott said.

Hurd was also in the Battle of the Bulge and after the war was over he spent weeks in Berlin. Lott said he was one of the first units that went into the concentration camps.

Hurd would have turned 97-years-old on October 15.

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