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WWII Veteran Awarded Purple Heart For D-Day Heroics Looks Back 70 Years Later

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SIMI VALLEY (CBSLA.com)  —   To most of us, D-Day is  something we read about in history books.

John Shick lived it.

The WWII veteran was just 21 on that historic, fateful day.

Now 91, he reflected back on that day — 70 years ago to the day — about his memories and being wounded by an exploding artillery shell.

Shick  sat down with CBS2’s Art Barron to discuss his memories. Barron said Shick’s memory was sharp.

The veteran and 160,000 allied troops landed on Omaha Beach, heavily fortified by the Germans. The fight — to liberate Nazi-occupied France — was intense. More than 9,000 allied soldiers were killed or wounded.

“Any soldier would do anything to protect his country, believe me,” Shick says, downplaying his own heroism.

His friend, Sgt. Jim Songster died right next to him during the artillery attack. He later broke the news to Songster’s sister, a nurse at a hospital n England.

“So when I got there, she asked me,  ‘Do you know Sgt. Jim Songster?””, he says breaking down, “And I said, ‘I’m sorry. I said, ‘Yes, I do.'”

Shick watched people die to his left and right and never felt he was going to be among the casualties.

“I said to myself and I told the other guys, ‘I am not going to get killed.’ Isn’t that amazing? I just knew I wasn’t,” Shick said.

He sometimes says he still has flashbacks about the bloody conflict.

“You just dream about it all over again you know,” Shick says.

Shick says the shrapnel from the exploding shell left him with a compound fracture of the left scapula or shoulder.

His daughter, Joan Culligan, says only after seeing the 1998 movie “Saving Private Ryan”, was he able to open up about his D-Day experience.

“Boy, that was so realistic,” he says.

“It truly wasn’t until ‘Private Ryan’ came out that my father finally opened up and started telling us a few stories a little at a time,” Culligan says.

Shick is active with the Simi Valley Senior’s Center —  he drives others to doctor’s appointments.

Friday, he was recognized by his peers before the afternoon bingo game for his service to his country.

“I’m very proud of my father,” says Culligan, “very proud.”

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