Medina resident Norman Riggsby traveled to Normandy, France earlier this month to be honored as one of the thousands of American soldiers who stormed Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, in a bold move to take Western Europe back from Nazi Germany.
When asked how it felt to return to that hallowed beach 75 years later, the energetic 94-year-old smiled and said, “Well, at least no one was shooting at me this time.”
Riggsby was in the third wave of Americans to hit Omaha Beach.
When he stepped off the landing craft, he said the water was over his head. But he managed to stay afloat and make it to the beach while some heavier soldiers around him drowned.
“I was wounded in both wrists by shrapnel that exploded before I reach the beachhead. I remember getting a chance to fire at the Germans while on the beach and being glad to survive that day,” Riggsby said.
He turned 19 three days after coming ashore that fateful day.
Several months later, Riggsby was wounded in the midsection when a German shell exploded near him while he was with an infantry unit.
That sent him to a hospital in England for treatment. But when he had recovered, Riggsby was assigned to a military police unit on motorcycles that escorted tanks for Gen. George Patton at the Battle of the Bulge.
His police unit also guarded senior Nazi officials at the Nuremberg War Trials in 1946.
Riggsby’s daughter Audrey Thompson of Houston accompanied him on a special Honor Flight to Normandy this month and during the week-long trip sponsored by the Word War II Museum in New Orleans.
“We were at Omaha Beach on June 5 to allow dad and others like him to go back to that day and time that was June 6. This was a time for reflection and to allow them to stand above the beach and remember that day,” she said.
It came a day earlier than the official June 6 commemoration because President Donald Trump made an appearance at that recognition ceremony along with the French president.
Thompson said she was deeply touched by what she saw and heard during the anniversary and how grateful the French people are for the sacrifice of young Americans like her dad in liberating their country.
Riggsby, who has been knighted by the French government because of his service and honored by celebrity veteran supporter Gary Sinise, takes all the attention in stride.
“I want to get back so I can feed the deer on my property,” he said with a chuckle.
When Riggsby got home, the Medina community held a special tribute for the World War II veteran on Friday, June 14, as part of Flag Day festivities.
The popular veteran attended an 8-10 a.m. breakfast at the Medina Community Center and a 10:30-11:30 a.m.
event at the Medina Community Library attended by a number of young people.
At the breakfast, Riggsby greeted dozens of admirers, many of whom wanted to take a photo with him and who peppered him with questions about his life.
Riggsby was accompanied at that event by another daughter, Debbie Schwan and her husband Joe Schwan, from Colorado.
At the library, the longtime Medina resident told more stories, answered questions and posed for photos with young people, some close the the age he was on D-Day 75 years ago.