After a good week of fundraising, 96-year-old Onofrio “No-No” Zicari of Las Vegas is set to return to France’s Normandy coast, where he endured the worst hours of his life.
A GoFundMe set up for Zicari raised $6,222 — the amount needed to bring his caretaker with him on his trip there in June.
“It’s amazed me. I said, ‘Oh my God, people don’t even know me, and yet they donated,’” Zicari said Monday. “It’s beyond words, really. You can’t describe it how many people really think about other people. Everything’s working out just great.”
Zicari’s trip is supported by the Forever Young Senior Veterans, a nonprofit that organizes trips for veterans of U.S. wars, granting them an opportunity to return to the places they fought.
Zicari, then a fresh-faced 21-year-old Army private on D-Day — June, 6, 1944 — during World War II, helped operate the boats that ferried supplies between ships and land.
The hours spent pinned on the beach by gunfire and artillery shook him to his core, he said, but he wants to return to the coast to visit his Army buddies who were put to rest there.
“I want to go back there this June and see what’s left. … They say the pillboxes (guard posts) are still there, so I’m anxious to see that,” he told the Review-Journal earlier this month.
Diane Hight, founder of Forever Young Senior Veterans, said continued donations to the organization can help pay for one of the other 13 veterans attending the trip and for commemorative hats and jackets for the veterans.
“These men are in their later years, and they’re not going to have another opportunity to go back. It’s now or never, and that’s why I was so determined to get money for No-No,” she said.
“I’m so impressed and thankful for the people of Las Vegas who helped him get there.”
A donation of $3,000 came from the Italian American Club of Southern Nevada, whose president, Angelo Cassaro, said he saw the April 14 article in the Review-Journal about Zicari’s quest and decided to help.
Cassaro, 70, whose grandfather and father both served in the Army in World War I and World War II, respectively, said he was moved by Zicari’s story.
After chatting with Zicari, he came to find out that he knew both Zicari’s mother and sister through the Italian American Club.
“He’s an amazing man, and helping a 96-year-old hero achieve his dream, it’s very rewarding,” Cassaro said. “They really are the greatest generation.”