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East Texas WWII veteran remembers D-Day 78 years later

"If I was called to active duty I'd say, 'yes sir, I'll be there'," Dr. Jack Hetzel, 100, said.

TYLER, Texas — An East Texas World War II veteran remembers D-Day on the 78th anniversary of the historic war landing. 

Dr. Jack Hetzel, 100, of Big Sandy, was 21 when he volunteered for the draft to "fight for our freedoms."

Hetzel says one year later, he was deployed with the Army Air Corps in England months before Allied Forces landed on Normandy, France's beaches. 

He said since he was already in Europe, he didn't go to Normandy on June 6, 1944. When he did arrive on the beach, he remembered the fighting and recalled hearing the guns going off.

Hetzel had been transferred a few times and grew close with several other soldiers, but almost 80 years later, he can't recall all of their names. However, he will never forget the feeling of being a World War II soldier. 

In later years, Hetzel visited the cemetery in France. The moment he drove up and saw the American flag, Hetzel said he "sat there and wept" recalling it still being emotional. 

After 20 years of service, three tours, and countless battles, Hetzel says, at 100, if he was called to active duty, he'd do it all over again.

"I'd say 'yes sir, I'll be there'," Hetzel said

As the flag in his front yard stands tall, Hetzel says he will always stay true to red, white and blue.

"I am proud of that flag. I serve that flag. It represents me and every American in the world," Hetzel said. 

In his 100 years of life, Hetzel has met presidents, written 11 books, and is currently a preacher at Big Sandy United Methodist Church. He said he owes it all to God. 

Hetzel will be heading to Washington D.C. Friday with the "Honor our Heroes" group and will be the only WWII veteran on that flight.

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