Patriots Point marks D-Day with symposium, speakers who were at Normandy

By Stacy

MOUNT PLEASANT, .S.C. (WCIV) -- As a piece of World War II history floated in the Charleston harbor, the men who served aboard the U.S.S. Laffey reminisced on deck.

The Laffey was one of the ships offshore on D-Day, the day American troops stormed France and began the final attack on the Nazis that would end the war.

"D-Day was kind of anti-climactic for us because most of us were young bucks at that time thinking the first thing we do is storming the beach with guns blazing and so on and so forth," Quartermaster First Class Ari Phoutrides said.

Phoutrides was on board the Laffey June 6, 1944.

"But the next day they called us in to action. They told us to bombard the shore installations which we did. That was more to our expectations," he said.

Phoutrides participated in Patriots Point's 70th anniversary D-Day symposium.

Staff Sgt. John Hill from Goose Creek didn't serve on the Laffey, but was also at Normandy 70 years ago. He and Phoutrides spoke to the crowd of about 300 people in the theater on board the U.S.S. Yorktown.

Former Laffey crew members from other wars also came to honor those who served before them.

They're like family members from different wars.

"They're more like our dads but we can call them our grandfathers," said Sonny Walker, president of the U.S.S. Laffey Association. "We're losing them fast. Our WWII guys are going. I don't know how many we have left, probably a couple dozen out of 380. It's just like losing a family member when they pass."

As the Laffey members gathered, they knew some may not return for the next reunion. But their stories and the Laffey will always be around to everyone.

The symposium was free for all who attended.

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