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104-year-old Northern Michigan veteran shares history about a pivotal moment during World War II

TRAVERSE CITY — Thursday marks 80 years since D-Day.

On June 6, 1944, nearly 160,000 allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France while bullets whizzed by their faces and artillery shells blasted craters in the sand around them.

73,000 of those troops were American. They risked their lives to fight against Germans shielded behind fortified bunkers on the cliff-side.

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More than 25,000 Americans died that day, with another 5,000 wounded. The sacrifices were made in an attempt to free the European continent from the grip of Nazi Germany.

Northern Michigan army veteran Dick Grout was among those that landed on Omaha Beach.

“I was in charge of one of the groups of about 20 men. And our mission was to get on to the beach and start to get a position in on the beach,” Grout.

He said he was in the first wave as part of the 112th Engineer Combat Battalion. Grout, in his early 20s at the time, said it was his first combat experience.

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“We were under heavy fire, small arms fire from the Germans above, in the hills, looking down at us. So our first thing was to find some kind of cover to protect ourselves from that,” said Grout.

He said soldiers would find cover wherever they could and just keep trying to advance. The army veteran says he found cover behind a mound of dirt and him and his team stayed steadfast in their objective.

“We knew that the Germans did not want us and would do anything they could to keep us out,” said Grout.

He said their mission was successful but not without losing some men along the way. But he also gained some things because of the war, he met his wife overseas and they were married in Scotland.

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“She was what they call a WAAF, which is the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force for England, for Britain,” said Grout.

They had three kids, two sons and a daughter together. Grout said he also made some long-lasting friendships that left an impression on him during World War II.

“I do remember the strong bind that all of the men in my unit had, that we were all together, we were doing things we didn’t want to do, but we would do it well,” said Grout.

He said he kept in contact with many over the years but not so much anymore.

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“I did for a little while, but then gradually lost touch. So right now I don’t think there’s many left.

Grout said at the time of the invasion, he doesn’t recall being scared. He said they were well-prepared for what was going to happen.

Grout said he and a lot of his friends knew after the attack on Pearl Harbor what was to come.

“We knew was that they had been attacked and we didn’t know any details or anything. But we did know this probably means we’re going to go into the service,” said Grout.

Grout was recently honored with one of France’s highest honors back in January for his efforts, the French Legion of Honor. It’s an honor he’s humble about.

“I did what so many others did. I don’t want to be singled out as is a hero, it was our platoon who came together and did what we were supposed to do,” said Grout.

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