SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - World leaders and dignitaries gathered in Normandy, France Friday morning to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
The Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II is the single largest invasion in human history. It's been 70 years but for the young men who stormed the beaches and jumped from planes it's a day they can't forget.
More than 175,000 soldiers fought in Normandy, one of those men was Art Petersen. Petersen was 20 years old on D-Day.
"They put us in restriction camps so we could not talk to anyone," the veteran said. "Then on D-Day June the 6th we loaded up."
Petersen was a paratrooper on that day, jumping from planes to get behind enemy lines. On D-Day the drop was miles away from the intended target, he was separated from his company and fought for 4 days with a couple of other Americans before finding them again.
Ten thousand men lost their lives on D-Day. But by day's end the Allies had control of Normandy and from there it was a march across Europe to defeat Hitler.
Decorated veterans like Art made the trip back to France for the 70th anniversary. Petersen isn't there this time, he'd gone three times before. But at 90 years young he's one of only 2 remaining members of his company.
Art has lived in Santa Barbara since the 1940s and continues to carry the historic battle with him. He speaks at schools and has dedicated himself to veterans organizations.
"Nobody told me about my rights I had to find it the hard way,"" Petersen said about post military life. "So I wanted the other soldiers that came behind me to have it a little easier."
That's why World War II veterans like Art Petersen are considered The Greatest Generation.