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Ohio veteran returns home from D-Day commemoration to hero's welcome

Madelynn Baumann gets a kiss from Harry "Pete" Shaw, a World War II veteran who participated in the 75th anniversary commemoration of D-Day in France, at the Akron-Canton Airport.

SCOTT HECKEL/CANTONREP.COM/TNS

By SHANE HOOVER | Akron Beacon Journal | Published: June 14, 2019

CANTON, Ohio (Tribune News Service) — Harry "Pete" Shaw arrived earlier this week at Akron-Canton Airport to a hero's welcome, fresh from his trip to Normandy.

The North Canton veteran will hold court at 9 a.m. Saturday at Athens Restaurant, 816 Harrison Ave. SW in Canton, to talk about traveling to France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Shaw, 95, said he had such a fantastic trip, "Really, I hated to come home."

He traveled to France as a guest of The Best Defense Foundation, a not-for-profit group started by former NFL linebacker Donnie Edwards.

During World War II, Shaw fought the Germans in Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland and central Europe as part of the 283rd Field Artillery Battalion. He also helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp.

Shaw said the French countryside and towns, such as Saint-Lo, had changed since he saw them as a young soldier.

"It's amazing the way they have rebuilt those towns," he said.

Shaw and the other vets in the Best Defense group attended several days of events throughout Normandy and Brittany. On June 6, they observed the official commemoration of the D-Day landings.

Shaw sat near President Donald J. Trump and said he really liked the president's speech. He didn't get a chance to meet the president, but he did meet first lady Melania Trump.

"She's awesome," he said.

Shaw had hoped to reconnect with some of the French civilians he helped liberate, and he did get to swap stories with French and Belgian citizens whose parents survived the war.

He also had a reunion he never expected.

A man, who looked to be in his 60s, asked Shaw to speak to his father at one of the events. Shaw agreed, then heard the man explain his 93-year-old father had been a German soldier.

"You bring him up anyhow," Shaw recalled telling the man. The former enemies shook hands.

"I'm so glad you're doing this for me," Shaw said the German veteran told him.

"I says, 'You know what? We both had a job to do,' " Shaw recalled. "'You done yours, and I done mine.' So, that's all over with now."

The man hugged him.

"I never thought I'd see a German soldier," Shaw said.

©2019 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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