Dunwoody vet travels to France for D-Day anniversary, receives France's highest honor

Today marks 80 years since D-Day, the beginning of the end of World War II. Veterans have returned to France to commemorate the battle and honor the more than 2,500 American lives lost.

The Best Defense Foundation and Delta Air Lines flew 60 World War II veterans to Normandy this year, including one from Dunwoody. FOX 5’s Tyler Fingert spoke to him as he left over the weekend.

There has been much anticipation for this trip for World War II veteran Hilbert Margol. He expressed that this journey is an opportunity for him to reflect and honor those who never made it back, whom he considers the true heroes of the war.

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On Sunday night, dozens of wheelchairs carrying World War II veterans rolled down the F Concourse at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on their way to the gate. This annual flight from the airport to Normandy, France, commemorates the D-Day invasion. 

Hilbert Margol

"It’s going to be a memorable experience," Margol said.

After a kiss from his wife of more than seven decades, 100-year-old Margol boarded the flight. He emphasized that he wouldn’t miss this trip, stating, "Given the opportunity, I'm going to go. I said, this is the last trip of this kind. It will not be repeated."

Although Margol was not part of D-Day, he was a member of the Allied forces that helped win the war. He and his twin brother were among the first to discover the Dachau Concentration Camp, which was liberated on April 29, 1945.

According to Margo, he and his brother were part of an artillery convoy headed for Munich on a two-lane road through the woods. During a brief stop, the brothers smelled something and asked their sergeant if they could investigate. After a short walk, they spotted a boxcar with a human leg dangling from inside. 

"We didn't understand what we were seeing because we didn't know what created all of this," Margol recalled.

More than 200,000 people from across Europe were held at Dachau and more than 40,000 prisoners died there. Margol told the Associated Press that he remembers seeing bodies stacked like cordwood.

"You have all these people coming out to say thank you to this generation, which is so important because we can't forget history," said Donnie Edwards, President and Founder of the Best Defense Foundation. 

For Margol, his trip has been about honoring the service and sacrifice of his fellow comrades. 

"A lot of memories are coming back," he said. Some of the soldiers in my outfit  unfortunately didn't make it. 

The veterans have been taking part in parades, school visits and ceremonies in France, including the official June 6 commemoration of the landings by soldiers from the U.S., Britain, Canada and other Allied nations. 

French President Emmanuel Macron awarded 11 US veterans, including Margol, the Legion of Honour during the commemoration. The French president kissed each veteran on both cheeks and pinned medals on their lapels.,