ednesday marks 68 years since Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France.
In memory of that turning point in 1944 for World War II in western Europe, an Army couple's eatery in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., will salute all military veterans and active-duty personnel with free meals 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday.
Also, in another continuing recognition of World War II-era veterans, Honor Flight Grand Strand/Myrtle Beach, which just gave 88 veterans a free tour May 23 to see the World War II Memorial and other historic sites in our nation's capital, has booked its next round-trip day trip to Washington for Oct. 24.
Deborah and Felix Serra own Mr. G's Ice Cream & Grill, 310 17th Ave. S., where the family will serve free food and award prizes to everyone who wears, or has worn, the uniform, in any branch of service to the United States.
Deborah Serra, who served four years in the Army, said the effort is simply the family's way to "give back to the community." She said her husband, Master Sgt. Felix Serra, has spent 23 years as an instructor at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., a place with historic alumni including two then-future wartime generals who became U.S. presidents: Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The Serras, parents of children ages 13, 11 and 9, have been giving discounts to military clientele for 20 years, said Deborah Serra, who bought the store from her uncle, Edgar Gattis of Conway. She said he served in the Navy.
Serra remembered when she and her husband lived at Fort Bragg, N.C., and seeing a housing area there called Normandy. With a father who devoted 20 years to the Army, Serra said, "My family comes from a long line of military service."
In giving free meals for a day, Serra said she wants to remind all the recipients, "whether you were ... in World War II, or just went into the military or if you tell me, 'My mommy's in the Army,'" including veterans with disabilities and those who are homeless, that they are never forgotten.
Serra said various groups have helped the family with this recognition of personnel, including Golden Knights photos donated from Fort Bragg to give the honorees, and Rolling Thunder S.C. Chapter 3, which will arrive at Mr. G's at 5 p.m.
Having done tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Felix Serra has lost soldiers in combat, his wife said.
"We've been to a lot of military funerals," Deborah Serra said. "That is just something that breaks your heart."
Next Honor Flight
Kris Southard, who heads publicity for Honor Flight Grand Strand/Myrtle Beach, said the youngest honoree on the latest Honor Flight from Myrtle Beach was born in 1929, the eldest 1918. She encouraged families and friends of any area elder veterans to sign them up for the fifth Honor Flight, departing and returning to Myrtle Beach International Airport on Oct. 24.
She said since she started volunteering for Honor Flights, "all veterans are special to me, but certainly World War II veterans are very special, because we are losing so many of them so quickly" from the inevitability of aging.
"D-Day was a significant day in the world," Southard said, "so it makes me pause a little longer. My own father was a World War II veteran. ... I think of him more on days like this."
She said her dad, Byron Spainhour, of her hometown Winston-Salem, N.C., was a soldier sent to Europe, and that he took an Honor Flight in 2010 from Greensboro, N.C., spurring Southward's own service in Honor Flight Myrtle Beach/Grand Strand.
"That's how I found out about it," she said.
Southard lamented that her many in her grandchildren's generation probably "won't know any World War II veterans," but that local Honor Flights, which draw guests from a radius that includes Georgetown, Florence and Dillon, help raise awareness about thanking individuals who have lived since giving of themselves for the Allied cause in the 1930s and '40s.
Seeing high schoolers on field trips in Washington welcome the Honor Flight entourage last month making its rounds moved Southard.
"They were aware of who these veterans were," she said. "They came out of their way to greet and thanks these veterans for their service."
Southward also voiced hopes that schools will continue, if not expand, teaching about "World War II as part of their history courses." She said the gravity of World War II goes deeper, because of its theaters in the Pacific and Europe.
"It was like two separate wars were going on," Southard said.
Breaking into tears, she recounted some stories shared with her on the May 23 Honor Flight. She met some veterans who said they served, but did not deploy, during World War II, for reasons such as they were younger draftees or enlistees, or that they joined the ranks as the war was nearing its end on both fronts in 1945.
"And they were sad," Southard said of the veterans expressing their honesty during the Honor Flight. "One man said he felt so ashamed that he did not get to go and fight. I told him you are no less a hero than any of those people who went."
Southard said credit also should go to those men for being ready, in the wings, if called upon, for making their own sacrifice for the Stars and Stripes.
"They went through the process," she said, quoting what she reminded the aforementioned former soldier: "Your contribution was just as important."
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