Some could not stand. Some could not hear. But each one of the eight D-Day veterans at a commemoration ceremony Friday at the Kern Veterans Memorial Plaza was a reminder of that pivotal day 70 years ago.
Honored for their service by the Kern County Veterans Services Department and Honor Flight Kern County, the D-Day vets -- a ninth was in Normandy itself Friday -- were feted by politicians, applauded by civilians and saluted by fellow veterans from four other wars.
Lili Marsh, local coordinator of Honor Flights to Washington, D.C., that have taken nearly 400 veterans to visit memorials, called the ceremony part of "a day of contradiction."
The gathering honored eight of the estimated 160,000 who participated in D-Day on June 6, 1944. But it also mourned the more than 4,400 Allied troops killed that day.
"You are heroes," Marsh told the vets and a crowd of about 75. "You are men among men.
"You saved the world and you changed the course of history."
While none of the vets addressed the crowd Friday, their presence spoke loudly. Children, their parents and veterans lined up to shake their hands and thank them for their service.
Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, presented the D-Day vets with certificates of recognition from the state Assembly, and a representative of Congressman Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, distributed certificates of "Special Congressional Recognition."
The flag was presented, the national anthem sung, a wreath was laid at the plaza and taps were played.
Joe Paul Park, 71, a Navy veteran of Vietnam, said there was "a special brotherhood" among vets.
He attended to support those "who went to Europe and to prevent the Axis from bringing their evil across the Atlantic Ocean to our shores."
The eight D-Day vets present were Lee Neukirchner, Robert Heinley, John Grenek, Keith Bratton, Willis Shepard, William Gloeckler, E.T. Roberts and Paul Gerig.
The ninth, in France Friday, is Henry Oschner.