By Walt Hunter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — At 90, the legs that carried Abe Milkis onto Normandy Beach that day need a little help from a cane and from Lavania his nursing aide.
But on this day 70 years ago, there were brothers in uniform at his side and they were dying.
“It was scary,” Milkis told CBS 3’s Walt Hunter, “all those dead bodies laying on the beach.”
Like so many of the “Greatest Generation” Abe was young, barely 21, jumping from his landing craft, struggling through the waves.
“The water was so deep, it up to our necks, we had to put the smaller guys onto our backs,” the veteran explained.
Beyond the beach, more battles, Milkis showing Hunter the Purple Heart and other medals awarded after he fell wounded.
“They were yelling, ‘man hit, man hit,’ I didn’t realize it was me,” Milkis said, “until I saw the blood.”
As warriors, Milkis and his brothers helped change the world that June day. But time is one enemy they cannot defeat. Milkis telling Hunter that when he meets with his veterans group every two weeks the number of empty chairs grows ever larger.
“I read the obituaries every day,” Milkis said quietly, “I am afraid to pick up the phone when it rings.”
Philadelphia in the past year lost two of our few remaining 101st Airborne Vets from D-day: “Babe” Heffron and “Wild Bill” Guarnere.
Veterans Affairs says our nation’s 1.25 million World War II Vets are passing at a rate of 413 each day.