(WMC-TV) - It is a dream for many of America's heroes to visit the memorials built in their honor or the grounds where they did battle.
A group of men who stormed Normandy on D-Day are scheduled to return this June, but one may be forced to drop the trip because of a memorable and difficult set of circumstances.
US 495. That's what was painted on the side of the boat that washed Phillip Nicastro ashore.
"I was there on D-Day," Nicastro said from the sofa in his son's Bartlett home. "There was a lot of noise and you see a lot of people in the water dead, a lot of them."
Nicastro, a cook and gunner, was among the thousands of American troops who stormed Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on June 6, 1944. Nicastro has never been back, but the veteran is scheduled to return this June for the 70th anniversary.
"I'm looking forward to it," Nicastro said.
His trip is fully funded through a local nonprofit called Forever Young Senior Veteran Wish, which sends aging heroes to hallowed grounds.
Phillip's wife, Ramona, was planning to join him at the Nicastros expense until the couple's Byhalia house, in which they lived for the past 45 years, blew up and burned to the foundation in October.
Ramona was injured in the fire and spent a night at The MED for treatment to burns on her hands, feet, and back. The couple got out with the clothes they were wearing at the time and little else. Since the fire, the Nicastros have been living with their son.
Now, their scheduled trip to Normandy is in jeopardy. Their out-of-pocket expenses from the fire have made it impossible for them to afford the $5,600 cost of Ramona's round-trip to France, and if Ramona can't go, neither is Phillip.
When Action News 5 asked Ramona what would happen if she couldn't go with her husband, her husband interrupted her answer.
"Phillip's not going to go without her," he said. "I'm just not going to leave her."
The Nicastros married February 18, 1946 after Phillip returned to the United States and a post in Virginia, where Ramona lived at the time. They have been together ever since, 68 years, and Phillip says he's not leaving the country again without his bride, no matter what, not even to revisit the beaches of Normandy.
"I'd like for her to go," he said. "She's never seen it. I've been there."
"He likes me a little bit," Ramona chuckled.
So a fire, $5,600, and an everlasting bond may keep this aging hero from returning to a beach he stormed on with that boat—US 495 painted on the side—nearly 70 years ago.
No big deal, he says. He's proud of his time in the Navy, but it doesn't define him, he says. And when thanked for his service, he had one simple reply.
The trip leaves June 2 and lasts a week.
Update: Between private and corporate sponsors, the Nicastros will both be making the trip. According to their daughter-in-law, funding was achieved within an hour and a half of the couple's story airing on Action News 5.
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