SAN DIEGO (CNS) — World War II veterans Andre Chappaz and Gilbert Nadeau joined retired San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Donnie Edwards in walking 5 kilometers from Cardiff to Solana Beach and back today to commemorate the 76th anniversary of D-Day.
The walk was part of a virtual 5-kilometer walk organized by the Best Defense Foundation, which Edwards founded. The foundation helps military veterans and their families, including bringing World War II veterans back to foreign battlefields to help them find closure and camaraderie with their brothers in arms. Its motto is “Taking care of the ones who took care of us.”
“It’s really special to have Gil and Andre here today,” said Edwards, who was born and raised in Chula Vista. He played for the Chargers from 2002-06. He had a grandfather who was in the armed forces during World War II.
“They’re always asking me to come out and do stuff and I can’t tell them no. We’re walking for those who cannot walk and they are keeping their memory alive and walking for the guys who can’t speak now.”
Walkers could participate any time Saturday with no cost to participate. Walkers could select from several contribution levels and receive commemorative keepsakes for their donation and participation in the walk.
The 5-kilometer designation symbolizes the distance from Omaha Beach to Pointe Du Hoc, the promontory with a 100-foot cliff overlooking the English Channel on the shores of Normandy, France.
Nadeau, 94, was a signalman aboard the U.S. Navy Landing Craft Support vessel USS LCS (L) (3) – 45, which was assigned to the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. Nadeau was aboard as it was headed to Iwo Jima when it collided with a larger vessel and had to abort its mission and be repaired.
Nadeau’s final combat mission was to Okinawa, where he witnessed and survived kamikaze attacks.
“D-Day meant a great deal because it turned the war,” Nadeau said. “Everyone wanted to get in, all the men. We wanted to get in, kick butt and come home and get on with our lives.”
Chappaz, 94, recalled being on Omaha Beach last June 6 for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
“I walked on the beaches and I couldn’t help but think of the guys who got slaughtered there,” said Chappaz, who was an engineer in the 1885th Aviation Engineer Battalion, which built airfields in Guam for B-29 bombers to land.
“The Germans were excellent machine gunners and they were gunning guys down right and left. I cannot forget what I felt as I walked on that beach. It’s worthy that we should pause and honor and not forget these guys.”
In 2019, the foundation brought World War II veterans to six former battle sites: Iwo Jima, Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, Eagle’s Nest, the Netherlands and Pearl Harbor.
“What Donnie does is terrific,” Chappaz said. “He is keeping that history alive and giving the veterans a chance to relive those moments that they experienced during their time in the service. He’s making people conscious that these people existed and what they did for their country because it’s so easily forgotten.”