Twenty-something New Mexico native Manuel Ray Perez had already been honorably discharged by the U.S. Army, but after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that started World War II, he knew he had to get back in the fight.
That determination, and a toss of the coin, put him on Omaha Beach, Normandy, Nazi-occupied France, on D-Day, 76 years ago today.
OFFICIAL DEFENSE DEPARTMENT BIOGRAPHY:
He was a yeoman on “Easy Red” sector of Omaha Beach with the 6th Beach Battalion — bullets screaming past him and hitting buddies and strangers all around during the Invasion of Normandy. And he was there because all he won a coin toss.
Retired Yeoman Chief Petty Officer Ray Perez has asked himself why he was there many times since then. He started asking in the hours after he and the 367 other enlisted men and 42 officers in his battalion cleared the way for the coming allied forces behind them. He wasn’t just there on D-Day, Perez was in one of the first units to hit the beach.