WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Seventy-three years ago Tuesday, Nazi Germany gave up its fight, marking Victory in Europe for the United States and her allies. In Washington, Illinois veterans visited memorials erected in their honor, including the World War II memorial. The day carried particular weight for one Galesburg man.
"I believe that everyday, people ought to be thankful of that," said Manuel Leon, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge during the war.
Leon says he clearly remembers the road that got him to V-E Day.
"The Germans asked us to give up. Our Commander said, 'Nuts,'" he said.
That was the famous reply from Leon's commander after a German officer asked for the U.S. to surrender during the Battle of the Bulge. The battle was one of the deadliest and most consequential of the war.
Leon was injured but made it out alive. Many of his friends did not.
"I saw a lot of American soldiers that really sacrificed for the freedom that we have," said Leon.
Leon and almost 50 other World War II vets took part in a parade of heroes at the National World War Two Memorial followed by a wreath-laying ceremony.
"It means so much to them but it also means so much to everyone here who can be with them," said Holly Rotondi, executive director of Friends of the National World War II Memorial.
Rotondi says her organization puts on these events to make sure everyone understands the sacrifice of the Greatest Generation.
Leon says it's an honor to be recognized, but he says he had a job to do, and, like his commander in France, he wasn't going anywhere until it was done. Giving up wasn't an option.
"That's something we don't do," said Leon. "We don't do that."