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Las Vegas veteran headed to Normandy, 80 years after D-Day

Updated April 27, 2024 - 10:15 am

The last known D-Day veteran in Las Vegas will return to Normandy. Again.

Five years ago, Onofrio “No-No” Zicari visited the spot where he spent the worst hours of his life. Now, at 101, he’s ready to go back for the 80th anniversary of the perilous fight.

“I thought maybe it would be the best thing for me to do,” Zicari said. “The good Lord is keeping me alive for a reason.”

While Zicari and a caregiver get a free trip, which includes seven nights in Normandy, covered by the nonprofit Forever Young Senior Veterans, the organization wants to upgrade his ticket. The group needs an additional $7,500 in donations to make it happen.

“We need to honor him and put him in first class. He deserves it,” said Diane Hight, the founder of Forever Young Senior Veterans.

Hight started the Tennessee-based nonprofit in 2006 as a way to honor her father and other veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam and grant them an opportunity to return to the places where they fought.

Zicari was just 21 when he and his comrades were called upon to storm France’s Normandy coast on D-Day — June 6, 1944 — during World War II. He returned to Normandy in 2019 for the 75th commemoration of the battle.

“Last time was overwhelming for him,” Hight said. “This is going to be a totally different experience for him. He will be able to absorb love from everyone there in a way that he couldn’t the first time.”

A healing moment

Zicari’s previous trip drew the attention of ABC News’ “World News Tonight,” which followed along as they reminisced about the battle and revisited spots still vivid in their memories.

One inspiring clip showed Zicari visiting the Normandy American Cemetery and stopping at the final resting place of his friend — Pvt. Donald Simmons — who was killed just as he was about to exit the landing craft and storm ashore at Omaha Beach.

Among those who saw the broadcast were members of Simmons’ family in upstate New York, where Zicari was raised. That led to a second trip as he visited his friend’s closest living relatives last year in Syracuse, New York. Zicari said at the time that the journey helped put some demons to rest and provide closure for him and Simmons’ family.

Zicari will join eight other veterans — whom he says he considers brothers — headed back to Normandy in June.

Honoring Zicari

As part of the Army’s 5th Amphibious Brigade and the fifth wave to descend on Omaha Beach, Zicari suffered shrapnel wounds in his knee and shoulder. The medic who cared for his knee was killed roughly an hour later. Zicari went on to serve in the war, including taking part in the Battle of the Bulge.

In 2021, Zicari finally received a Purple Heart for his injuries. He has previously said that his Catholic faith and the company’s priest helped him get through the war. He talked about visiting the place on the beach where he was pinned down so many years ago.

“There, I was in a state of grace,” Zicari said in 2019. “I didn’t want to die, but I wasn’t afraid.”

Zicari is set to be recognized during a candlelight salute May 24 at Police Memorial Park.

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter.

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