CHURCH HILL, Tenn. (WJHL) — It was an honor 80 years in the making. Ubert McConnell, a decorated World War II veteran, was recognized for his service Friday at the age of 102. His family calls the recognition humbling.
“He feels like he didn’t do anything other than what he had to do. He never saw himself as a hero,” said Lee Ann McConnell, Ubert’s daughter.
McConnell is one of the few men still alive who fought with the Allied forces on D-Day in Normandy, France. He received a special proclamation from the State Capitol, thanks to State Reps. Gary Hicks and John Crawford. The proclamation formally thanks him for his service to our nation.
“The freedom that we have to be able to do a lot of the things that we do today is because of the men just like Mr. McConnell. It’s fitting to come out and say thank you again, because we can’t say it enough,” Hicks said.
McConnell was among the first 30 men at Omaha Beach on D-Day in June of 1944. He witnessed first-hand what would be the largest seaborne invasion in history.
“They were actually inland a bit and looking down on the beach when the first wave hit. They had to see basically the slaughter of their comrades,” said Lee Ann.
McConnell went over on the troopship Queen Mary. He was a staff sergeant over a machine gun and always helped get the wounded off the battlefield.
He received a Silver Star and a Purple Heart from being wounded.
“They have given so much. And you think about that generation, there’s not a lot of those guys around now,” said Hicks.
Also given to McConnell Friday was a flag flown over the State Capitol building and an official promotion in rank to colonel.
“It humbles me and makes me realize how precious he really is. And I love every day that I have with him, I just hope I get to keep him a little longer,” said Lee Ann.
Putting pen to paper and a smile on the face of a veteran is a small gesture for a monumental sacrifice.
“A piece of paper and the things we gave him today will never suffice for the sacrifice he made,” said Rep. Hicks. “The stories he could tell, the knowledge that he has, the experience he has, my goodness I can’t imagine the stories.”