MERMENTAU – Norris Leger of Mermentau has a very different view of Memorial Day than the majority of Americans. Leger, a World War II veteran, took part what is widely considered to be the battle that turned the tide of the war. On June 6, 1944 (D-Day) his company made landfall on Utah Beach as part of the Normandy Invasion.
Leger, 87, earned the Purple Heart, Silver Citation, and Unit Citation honors for his service. He was hurt about a week following the invasion as a piece of shrapnel went though his hand. If you ask him though, he considers himself to be quite lucky.
“One piece actually came falling down and literally landed in my shirt pocket,” he said. “What are the chances of that?”
As he and his fellow soldiers were making that treacherous towards Utah beach ride in their small boats (like the one’s they had in Saving Private Ryan), as nervous as Leger must have been he still couldn’t help but realize what a small world it was.
“Everyone was really quiet and nervous,” he said. “I spoke briefly with the man next to me and asked where he was from. Turns out he was from Church Point. I didn’t speak to him for years but we got together a few months back.”
Leger became a teacher after the war, teaching 6th grade at Crowley Middle School until his retirement in 1976. He was among those veterans who took the initial HonorAir trip which is devoted to bringing all World War II veterans to view the World War II museum in Washington.
He and his wife Dora raised three children Kay, Kenneth, and Gwen. Norris and Dora were married for fifty years before Dora passed away.
These days Leger enjoys spending time with his family and working around his Mermentau home. His experiences during the war, however, will always be with him.
“I can remember it like it was yesterday,” he said.