MARTINEZ, Calif. (KTVU) - A Bay Area veteran plans on returning to the beaches of Normandy, France for the first time since the end of World War II.
At 96-years old, Jake Larson is also the last man standing of the military unit that stormed Ohama Beach in Normandy on D-Day. The sole survivor of his company, Larson showed us his many war medals, from his Bronze Star, to the French Legion of Honor, at his home in Martinez Thursday.
Next month is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, where the Allied forces invaded France.
"I want to do this just to represent all the guys I was with," said Larson. But his trip back, with his two sons and two of his grandsons, is being sponsored by the generosity of many people he doesn't know.
Typically the military would fund such a trip. But Larson's military records were destroyed in a fire in the 1970s.
But two women he got to know at his favorite bagel shop heard about the problem and decided to raise the money for the trip through a crowdfunding website--something Larson never heard of.
"They were saying fund me. And I thought they were talking about fun. So I didn't know how that would work out," he said.
It was "GoFundMe" that they were referring to. The goal for the fundraiser was $10,000. They raised $11,000.
"It's unbelievable. How many wonderful people there are in the world," he said.
While D-Day may seem like ancient history, for Larson it is still as current as today. It was Larson who says he helped type up the plans. Then he and 160,000 Allied troops were asked to storm the Normandy beaches that German soldiers had already commandeered.
"I had nightmares 20 years. I shook for 70 years," he said.
It's understandable considering Larson faced landmines and heavily-armed soldiers shooting down onto the beach. Death was everywhere.%INLINE%
"There was a soldier laying, and I said, 'Buddy, do you have a match? I've got to have a cigarette.' He didn't move. I looked again. There was no head under the helmet," he said.
When Larson gets to Normandy, he will bring the memories of all those who died there.
"Those guys are closer than your own family. They're kin."
Larson is almost finished with writing a book about his experiences. When he gets back from France he says he will write the final chapter.
The book's title: "The Luckiest Man In The World."