BOCA RATON, Fla. — A Boca Raton veteran is helping to remind the community of the true meaning of Memorial Day.
Bill Schwartz won three purple hearts and led more than 1,000 troops in the invasion of Normandy.
At 16 years old he lied about his age and enlisted in the United States Army, leaving his family behind to fight in World War II.
“And then very shortly sent me overseas,” he recalled. “We went to Britain where we trained for D-Day.”
He was in the first wave of the invasion. Leading more than 1,800 troops as a Captain in the United States Army.
“The Nazi Military, were on concrete embattlements, firing down from us on the beach,” Schwartz said. “We could get no cover, men died right in the water, some got even shot while they were in the vessels, trying to get out and get ashore.”
He was ordered to keep moving.
“As we were climbing up it was like bodies raining down, it was a very tough thing,” he said. “Within 24 hours, I lost 20 percent of the men under my command. That will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
For the 97-year-old, every Memorial Day is about them.
“They are men I trained with, worked with, got to know, got to know about them and their families in some cases,” he said.
With help from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Monday he honored those lives lost. Sharing their stories with his neighbors at Sinai Residences in Boca Raton.
“This is where we memorialize, those who made the supreme sacrifice,” Schwartz said. “Gave up their life, to make our country life available. Free from harm's way, free from slavery, death, and everything else. God helped us and we made it.”