NEW ORLEANS -- A replica of the famous landing craft built by Andrew Higgins in New Orleans is a central exhibit at the National World War II Museum, and that's where you can usually find Don Summers, a WWII Navy Coxswain who now volunteers here to thank Higgins for saving his life.
"The Higgins boat, that's one I'm sitting beside. That's why I'm here all the time, because I ran one of these, and I can't swim a lick, and I'm still alive because he built a good boat,” Summer said.
On Memorial Day, the veterans who volunteer here are sharing the stories of courage and sacrifice they and their friends made.
Bill Springer flew C-47 transport planes in the Pacific.
"99% of the time it was boring. The other 1 percent of the time was scary, and I being a devout coward," he said.
Frances Hoffman became Sgt. Hoffman during World War II, as one of the first women accepted into the U. S. Marine Corps.
"And I went to boot camp at Camp LeJeune,” she said. “It was very new at that time, and the men weren't very glad to see us."
For these veterans, Memorial Day carries a special significance, because they were there, they fought in the battles. So many of them will spend this holiday with private reflections, the memories of those they knew who are no longer here.
"And if we forget what those guys did, then they will indeed have died in vain, and consequently Memorial Day prevents that,” said Korean War vet Charles Vicari.
Springer said, "It brings back memories of the four of us who went in the Air Force together. The other three are dead. I'm still here.”
And here they teach future generations about the importance of fighting for freedom.
Just don't insult Summers’ landing craft.
"The other day a lady said, ‘That's an ugly looking boat. That's an ugly looking boat,’ and I said, ma'am, it wasn't built to be in a beauty contest, it was built to haul supplies and troops,” he said. “I said it did one heck of a job. I said I don't like for you to call my boat ugly. She turned around and walked away, and an older woman came up, she slapped me hard on the shoulder, and said, 'Thank you for shutting that woman up, sir.’”