A Thomson war veteran recently received a hero’s welcome at the White House and received a letter from President Donald Trump thanking him for his valiant service during World War II.

Luciano “Louis” Graziano, 96, is the last surviving witness to the German surrender of World War II. He traveled with his family to Washington, D.C. to serve as a panelist at the American Veterans Center's 22nd Annual Conference at the National Archives Oct. 24 and was a D-Day veteran honoree at the American Valor Gala.

Last year, Graziano recalled his myriad of experiences in a his book, A Patriot’s Memoirs of World War II, a book that he wrote for his children.  Graziano, a veteran of the US Army, landed with the third wave on D-Day on Omaha Beach, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and witnessed the signing of the German Instrument of Surrender at the Little Red Schoolhouse.

“It felt great to be recognized,” Graziano said of participating on the veterans’ panel and later meeting Vice President Mike Pence.

“I did not know all of this was going to happen,” Graziano said.

Graziano’s participation on the panel was the result of using resources and information from the National Archives and History in his memoir.  Once the book was written, Graziano sent a copy to his contact at the National Archives, thanking him for assistance in information gathering.

“After he read the book, he said we have to have your father here for the Valor Program,” said daughter Kim G. Evans. “Daddy was part of the discussion honoring our D-Day heroes.”

According to Evans, the meeting at the White House was a surprise for Graziano. “He did not know anything about it.  He was invited to be a part of the American Valor program and so he was going to Washington anyway,” she said.  “We contacted Congressman Hice’s office to see if we could get him into the White House to see President Trump. He always wanted to meet President Trump,” she said.

The panel discussion was lengthy and Graziano could not get to the White House before the President’s scheduled departure for South Carolina that day.  Graziano was given the VIP tour of the White House and the opportunity to meet Vice President Mike Pence, a meeting that was facilitated by Congressman Jody Hice (GA-10) and his staff.  Hice represents McDuffie County.

“I had been to Washington before but not inside the White House, Graziano said. “They took us all through the West Wing. I saw the Oval Office but I didn’t sit in the chair,” he said while laughing.

Graziano said the visit was a dream come true. “I never thought I would get there but it all came about,” he said.  

He said Pence congratulated him for his service. “I told him that I would be backing President Trump for the reelection and that I appreciated him having me there,” Graziano said. “I thought it was great that Pence saluted me and I saluted him back.”

Graziano did not aspire to be a living legend. “I did not try to be any great thing. We were there fighting for what we had to do and did it,” he said. “I feel great that I had the opportunity to be there. I have never been one to brag but it was great.”

Although Graziano did not get to meet the country’s leader, the president left him a signed letter that was presented by the Vice President.

Graziano said receiving the letter from the President was significant. “I thought it was a great honor to have a letter from the President,” he said

The complete text of President Trump’s letter to Mr. Graziano reads: “Dear Mr. Graziano, As Commander in Chief, I extend my personal admiration and our Nation’s everlasting gratitude for your valiant service during World War II. More than seven decades ago, the eyes of the world were upon you and your brothers-in-arms as you stormed the heavily fortified beaches of Normandy, France. The scene before you was treacherous and the outcome unknown, but in the wake of chaos, you bravely forged ahead in battle.

 Our Nation enjoys peace and prosperity because of patriots like you who answered the call to defend our freedom. Your legacy of selfless sacrifice does not fade but grows more meaningful with the passage of time. Your generation, the Greatest Generation, demonstrates that there is no greater courage than that which burns in the hearts of America’s warriors.

 I am inspired by the strength you have exhibited throughout your life and send my best wishes to you and your family. Sincerely, Donald J. Trump”

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