Taking part in the National Anthem tradition Sunday at the United Center will be a bit more special for me after receiving a message from loyal reader Jennifer Ciepley.
Mr. Norval Nelson, one of the last surviving U.S. Navy divers from the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France on June 6, 1944, will be next to Anthem singer Jim Cornelison while more than 20,000 fans at the United Center celebrate the tradition.
Mr. Nelson, 92, is the grandfather of Jennifer’s husband.
“He really is an amazing man and at 92, still is bright and quick to smile and he loves this country,” Jennifer said. “Can you imagine the changes this man has seen in his lifetime?”
Mr. Nelson was 26 years old when he and 199 other divers — or “frogmen” as they were called — crossed the English Channel on D-Day. Though suffering five combat injuries in six days, he was one of only 17 divers to survived the invasion. Nelson is one of only four divers still alive today.
Hungry and seemingly terribly injured, Mr. Nelson said, “I asked God, ‘Please let me die.’”
Mr. Nelson was one of 199 members of Navy Combat Demolition Force O, which had the duty of blowing up obstacles the Germans put on the beach to prevent landings of allied forces. The naval demolition units were precursors of the Navy SEALs.
Westminster Christian High School in Elgin raised money through its basketball team’s Free Throws for Heroes movement to send Mr. Nelson to Fort Pierce in Florida, where he trained before the war and always wanted to visit.
Upon his arrival, he was honored with a celebration.
The Chicago Blackhawks will help provide Mr. Nelson with an experience he and his family likely will never forget, as the United Center cheers during the National Anthem prior to Game 6.
Hopefully the Blackhawks give Mr. Nelson something to cheer about as well.
Thanks again to Jennifer Ciepley for providing the photo and information