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WWII Veteran discusses Normandy ahead of 75th anniversary

Posted at 9:17 PM, May 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-28 00:34:34-04

DENVER -- Joe Chavez was just 20 years old when he enlisted in the Army and served on the beaches of Normandy.

Today, at 95, he only recently started opening up to his family about his service.

"I had been issued a Thompson submachine gun and I had 180 rounds of ammunition and three days rations. That was pretty optimistic," Chavez says laughing at his supplies landing on the beach in Normandy.

He humbly describes what he did as "just doing a job."

When asked what he saw when he landed on the beach he said he saw "casualties, dead boys."

"I said to myself, looking at them, 'They'll never go back to America, they will never see America again. They will never go home," Chavez said.

Months later, Chavez was shot at the Albert Canal in Belgium. He says returning to civilian life was difficult.

"Going in was one of the best days of my life," he said. "Coming out was one of the worst days. I can't explain it."

Chavez says meeting his wife saved him. He graduated from the University of Denver, served 13 years on the Thornton City Council and became mayor there.

He says if he could do it all over, he would serve again.

"I love America, I was taught to love America. It's the greatest country in the world."