June 6, 1944: Remembering Grand Junction’s James Stafford and the Invasion of Normandy
June 6, marks the 74th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy, D-Day, the largest amphibious attack in history.
It was four years ago James E. Stafford, of Grand Junction, at age 92, got the chance to return to the scene of one of the most significant battles of World War II on the beaches of Normandy, France. We lost "Jim" just a few weeks ago on March 31 when he passed away at the age of 95, but today we honor Jim and the thousands of soldiers responsible for the liberation of Western Europe from the control of Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany.
Jim Stafford was one of the lucky ones to survive the invasion and come home. Approximately 156,000 allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy in the D-Day invasion, and nearly 10,000 lost their lives that day and in subsequent missions.
Stafford joined the 101st Airborne Division in 1942 and earned two purple hearts, fighting in the Normandy Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge. In 2014, he received the French Legion of Honor for his service and heroism. It's the French government's highest honor for a non-citizen.
The obituary for James Stafford says "his faith in God was unshakable and his personal integrity was unwavering." James was truly a hero in war, and in life, and we are grateful for his life and his service.
It wasn't until after his retirement that Stafford relocated to Grand Junction. But, four years ago, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landing, Stafford and three other World War II veterans from Colorado had the chance to return to Normandy, thanks to a Denver-based charity called The Greatest Generations Foundation.
That trip is chronicled in the video below from Fox 31 in Denver.
Thousands of American soldiers never made it home from that D-Day invasion and we never want to forget their sacrifice. These were mostly young men with so much of life ahead of them to live. Instead, these were lives that forged the future of freedom, not only for the United States of America but the entire world.