Three-quarters of a century ago today, Norman Aasen was sitting on a landing barge waiting to park on the German-occupied Normandy coast.
“We couldn’t bring our heavy guns until the tanks went ahead of us to make room,” the now 99-year-old Aasen explained.
While the artillery troupe waited, Aasen fired blows at German ships in hopes of destroying sea crafts attacking Canadian forces on the surf.
Canada fought alongside allied armies that day, D-Day (June 6, 1944) to free Europe from the stranglehold of fascism.
The veteran recalls “terrible conditions” of later occupying Falaise in France two months later where allies forces had “German soldiers pent up” in circles, he said.
Because of Aasen’s service that day, and others during his three years in the army, he was awarded by France in 2015 – the Legion of Honor medal.
The veteran says he’s “lucky,” to have avoided serious injury or death during his three years of service.
Born in rural Saskatchewan, Aasen recalls hopping onto a boxcar as a teen and riding it to Sudbury, Ontario where he found work in a nickel mine.
Shortly after being beckoned home at 22 by his family of six in Sask., Aasen “got the call” that would enlist him in the Second World War against Germany.
“That was the start,” Aasen reflected.
After basic training in Regina, Aasen joined the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery’s personnel branch, the 15th Field Regiment, which grouped in Vancouver before shipping off to war.
“I first landed in London and went all the way through the war,” the decorated vet explained.
Aasen was a heavy artillery operator “everywhere” in Europe including Holland, France, Germany and Belgium.
Not long after, he served as a surveyor, reporting enemy battle plans to higher ups through formations detailed on a map.
READ MORE: Aldergrove Legion honours WW2 veterans
Aasen’s adult son accompanied him to Holland five years ago for the 70th anniversary of the countries liberation.
There, he saw overwhelming numbers, “in the thousands,” of Canadian soldiers’ graves.
“Too many of our young died, I couldn’t believe it” he said, “It’s heartbreaking.”
Aasen lost many of his own friends to war, some just 16 and 17 years old.
“Now you hear all these guys talking about war again,” he said, referencing the Trump administration’s tensions with North Korea – “They should see those graves. Then they’d forget about war.”
The aging veteran admits to being scared less during battle than most would expect.
“You don’t fear because you never think about it. You just do your job. That’s it,” Aasen emphasized.
Every once and a while though, fear would overtake him.
“We were bombed by our own big planes three times,” Aasen reported, admitting as he saw explosives falling towards him he ran to dive behind walls.
“I just kept running,” Aasen added.
When the war ended 1945, the young solider was in the coastal town of Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
The Aldergrove veteran now lives a humble life in the outskirts of South Langley.
Aasen dresses up in full regalia for the Aldergrove Legion’s Remembrance Day ceremonies each year.
He will be 100 years old in November.