SC veterans plan ‘last hurrah’ to D-Day beaches
A month after World War II ended, Jeanne Palyok, an American raised in France by her grandparents, sailed back to Paris to work as a translator at the U.S. Embassy. In 1947, she and her husband, John, a veteran of the war in Italy, were transferred to graves registration at the new U.S. cemetery overlooking the D-Day beaches in Normandy.
During that time, she witnessed first-hand the staggering scope of the American sacrifice to liberate her second home. Later, Palyok would become a French teacher at Dreher High School in Columbia and, for 18 years, led trips to France for her students.
In June, Palyok will take about 20 S.C. veterans of World War II back to Normandy for the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day. And she wants them to go for free.
“I saw the devastation to our people and the land in France,” said Palyok, who now lives in Forest Acres, South Carolina. “I know this is the last time these men will be able to go back. I want it to be a present for them.”
More than 5 million people are expected to flock to the rural beaches of northern France and nearby towns with familiar names – St. Mere Eglise, Saint-Lo and Caen. Among the dignitaries planning to attend the commemoration ceremonies are Queen Elizabeth of England and, perhaps, U.S. President Barack Obama.
Palyok and her sons, Ron and Mike, operated Pal Travel in Columbia from 1976 until last year. She and Ron will lead the veterans, 20 guests and 20 others on a 10-day tour from June 1 through June 10. They will visit the invasion beaches and the war-torn inland towns, attend the ceremonies and end with a triumphant visit to Paris.
The guests and their so-called “guardians” – caretakers for the veterans named after similar attendees on the popular Honor Flight program – will pay $3,500 for the trip. The Palyoks are seeking donations large and small to cover the costs for the 20 veterans.
Donations can be made through the trip’s website, overlord70.com. But time is short. Reservations have to be secured by May 1.
“We only have a very few guest spots remaining, based on some of the veterans’ (physical) ability to go,” Ron Palyok said. “We’re taking it on a case-by-case basis. But we are looking for corporate or private sponsorships, and donations for the veterans.”
One of those veterans is John Cummer of Northeast Columbia.
You can help send a WWII vet to Normandy, France to attend D-Day’s 70th anniversary. Send a WWII Veteran to Normandy’s 70th anniversary Here