FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – CBS4 in partnership with the Florida Panthers put the spotlight on a hero among us, men or women, who have gone beyond the call of duty for our country.
On this 75th anniversary week of D-Day, we would like to look back at some of the heroes among us that were a part of the day that changed the course of history.
United States Army Veteran Lt. Col. Bill Schwartz enlisted in the Army in 1941 because he says he realized the country was in danger and felt he had to defend it. Schwartz served during the Omaha Beach Invasion and D- Day. On the very first day, within 24 hours, he lost 80 percent of the men under his command but he continued to fight and lead the remaining men all for the love of his country.
“This is what a citizen should do for his country when you have freedom of the most wonderful country in the entire globe, one must do what they need to do,” said Schwartz.
World War II veteran Victor Catalano served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946. Just before his 18th birthday on November 5, 1943, he enlisted in the Navy as a gunner on a small transport vessel he helped transport army soldiers to Normandy Beach on D-Day June 6, 1944. Although decades have passed it is a day Victor Catalano will never forget.
“Our job was to bomb the beaches and then get the soldiers off. The Lt. Commander said fellas we did our job, now soldiers do your job. I don’t think I was a hero, the heroes were the soldiers, they were on the ground,” said Catalano.
Private Michael Camasso was drafted when he was 18 as part of the 101st Airborne Division. After basic training, Camasso was sent to Ireland, England and then France where he served in the battle of Normandy and on D-Day he got into a plane and his parachute training served him well as he jumped out of a plane and into unknown territory. And although he was still young and inexperienced, Camasso said he was not scared and knew it was something he had to do.
“I was 18 years old, I jumped into a field by myself didn’t know where I was, didn’t know what to do. People were shooting, I had to be careful, but we captured the town, it didn’t take too long, we did what we had to do, we captured a German soldier. I was brave, there was no question about that. I wasn’t scared of nobody cause I knew I had to do my job” said Camasso.
A very brave Michael Camusso; Lt. Col. Bill Schwarz, the recipient of three Purple Hearts; Victor Catalano, the recipient of the Bronze Star medal and French Legion of Honor along with dozens of other veterans have been honored at Florida Panthers games, all with standing ovations.
Nearly 16 million veterans served in World War II and on June 6, 1944, some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed in Normandy and more than nine thousands were killed or wounded.
On behalf of the Florida Panthers and CBS4, we would like to say thank you to all the heroes for your bravery, service, and dedication to our country.