WINDSOR, Colo. (CBS4) – Seventy-five years after serving on the beaches of Normandy, France a 97-year-old Windsor woman will return to the war zone she once experienced. Leila Morrison, originally from Georgia, was awarded an all-expenses-paid trip back to the beaches of Normandy as a thank you from the “Best Defense Foundation.”
“I really thought it was a hoax at first,” Morrison told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.
The Best Defense Foundation, founded by former NFL player Donnie Edwards, sends veterans on trips back to the land they once fought on. The trips are all-inclusive, and often include personal caregivers for the aging veterans. Morrison isn’t sure how the foundation found her, or why they chose her instead of others.
Morrison, and more than a dozen other WWII veterans, are scheduled to leave for France on June 6. Morrison said this trip will be the first time she has been back to the beaches of Normandy since the war.
“Seventy-five years ago, I landed on Normandy Beach,” Morrison said. “(The team of Army nurses) were the only women military at that time.”
Morrison said she was looking forward to being back on the beach, and seeing the place which she has kept in her memory for decades.
“The beach was full of mines and sunken ships,” Morrison said. “We rode up to the beach in this little boat. As I stepped out on the sand, I felt like it was sacred ground. Because, so many of our troops didn’t make it any further than that.”
There to save lives, Morrison was one of the many female-soldiers that provided aid to the badly wounded. While more than 100,000 would die in one month of battle, Morrison and her team helped save countless others.
Even after 75 years, Morrison says she can still recall many vivid memories from the war. She said one of the most troubling was seeing a large tree with the remains of parachutes swaying in the breeze. She was told soldiers descending on earth were trapped in the trees, and the enemy was able to surround them.
“(I replay those moments) over, and over, and over. Many details,” Morrison said. “As our boys climbed up that mountain, they were just mowed down. I (still) see the faces of the boys that didn’t make it.”
Thanks to the Best Defense Foundation, Morrison will have almost 11 days to create new memories on the same beach that has stuck with her. A photo album she has from WWII has many fading photos. She said she looked forward to making a new one with her new memories.
“Just seeing it again. Walking on that sand again. It is very exciting,” Morrison said. “There won’t be anything that looks the way it did when we walked up that beach.”
Morrison said she was hoping her group would have more closure, and greater memories, as they return to France once again.
“Memorial Day is just about every day, because you never forget that,” Morrison said.