Last Saturday marked the 76th anniversary of Allied Forces storming Normandy Beach on June 6, 1944, otherwise known as D-Day. While many anniversary trips were canceled due to coronavirus, the Minnesota Vikings did manage to send five Minnesota World War II veterans to Europe back in November.
The Vikings Entertainment Network documented the trip to England and France, releasing a video to commemorate the veterans’ trip (you will have to redirect to Youtube due to NFL restrictions):
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The experience started with a chance to attend a Vikings practice, which Vikings Senior Editor Craig Roberts covered along with each veterans’ military history:
“The heroes were welcomed by Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, and [veteran William T. Patten] broke down the team’s final huddle of the week, saying, ‘Vikings on 1, 2, 3.’
The team followed, leading the man who will turn 102 on June 14 (the 245th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Armed Forces) to exclaim, ‘Wow!'”
The veterans traveled to London for sightseeing and visited the British Royal Air Force’s Club to observe Remembrance Day before visiting Normandy. After their trip, all the veterans were honored at the Vikings-Broncos game, which later became one of the most historic comebacks in recent NFL history.
Roberts detailed that game as well:
They returned from the tour and were recognized during an impactful halftime program at Sunday’s Vikings-Broncos game. The ceremony featured a tribute video that recapped their trip, as well as current members of the military displaying a large American flag.
Staff Sgt. Jeremy Gaynor, a lead vocalist in the Army’s West Point Band, sang God Bless America, and the veterans were shown on the video board, causing a stir among the crowd of 66,883, an attendance record at a Vikings home game.
As the Vikings began their comeback, the video board featured the veterans again and again, continuing to generate tremendous ovations from the crowd.
The real-life heroes watched the action from the entry tunnel that the Vikings use to take the field and were able to see the on-field heroics of their favorite team.
No team had come back after trailing by 20 points at halftime in 99 games over the past five seasons, but the Vikings mounted a momentous rally in the second half to defeat the Broncos.
The Vikings partnered with the Hy-Vee grocery chain to create the “Hy-Vee Veterans Voyage” in 2017. The program has sent groups to Washington D.C. the past two years and offered a year of free groceries from Hy-Vee on top of being honored at the Vikings’ “Salute to Service” game each season.
Follow Trevor Squire on Twitter: @trevordsquire