Senator Balderson (right) joins WWII veteran John Wesley Tignor and his daughter Cynthia Wood to discuss the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe.

Friday, May 8th marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. Many of us have parents or grandparents who played a role in this generation-defining conflict. John Wesley Tignor, born and raised in Zanesville, Ohio, served in Europe during the war.

His story is one worth remembering and sharing.

John was 19 years old when he volunteered for the Army. He was assigned with the 29th Infantry Division and first saw action during the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. His division was tasked with securing Omaha Beach.

John spoke about that day:

“We were nervous and scared.  A bomb struck our Higgins© landing craft as we approached the beach. I didn’t know what to do at that point. Suddenly, someone called for B Company to go over the side of the boat, so we did. After that, we waded toward the beach and did our job.”

Despite missed landings, faulty intelligence and seemingly insurmountable odds, the 29th Infantry Division was able to secure the beachhead.

John continued to fight alongside his unit until he was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. After recovering from his wounds in Paris, John could only think about returning to his fellow soldiers.

“They offered to send me back to candidate school to train the replacements. It would have been safe, but that was the last thing I wanted. No one in our unit wanted to go home while the others continued to fight.”

John returned and continued to fight until the end of the war. He was in a small German village on May 8, 1945 when he learned that the war in Europe was over.

“That really was a special day. We didn’t think about victory over Germany or what it all meant. We just thought about how quickly we could get out of there and get back home.”

John returned to Zanesville and married Joanna Gilliland in 1950. They both returned to work and began raising their new family.  John and Joanna recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.

John spoke about the contributions that he and so many made during World War II.

“Winning the war was a collective effort. It took everyone doing their job. No job was too small. Whether you were fighting oversees or rationing food at home, we all did it together. We were, in every sense, a family.”

The indelible contributions of John’s generation will never be forgotten, but it is our duty to ensure that their legacy lives on. Of the 16 million veterans who served, less than one million are still living.

I encourage you to pause and reflect on the contributions of those who served during World War II. Perhaps you know someone who lived during that period. There is no better way to honor their memory than by expressing your gratitude and appreciation to them personally. Writing a letter, making a phone call or simply saying thanks is a great way.

In closing, I would like to thank some close friends, William Taisey, Robert Neff and the late Lloyd Whitey Barnes who also served in World War II and whom I have had the privilege of getting to know over the years. My special thanks to all veterans who have served.

Like John’s story and those of my friends, there are so many others worth learning about.

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