(CBS) — Several commemorations have been planned throughout the Chicago area on Friday to honor the 70th anniversary of D-Day, bringing together communities and surviving veterans to tell their stories.

CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports Smith Senior Living in Orland Park was hosting a memorial ceremony, with several World War II veterans in attendance.

Among them was Nicholas Zaglifa, who was a U.S. Army staff sergeant who parachuted into Normandy, France, as part of the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.

Zaglifa received two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars in the war, and said it was hard for him to think about D-Day for several years, because of all the friends who died fighting.

“At that time, it didn’t register; not as much as it does now, after you realize how many men you lost, and how much it destroyed the families and so forth,” he said.

He said the first thing he saw when he landed in France was a dead American soldier.

“I’ll never forget that as long as I live,” Zaglifa said. “I was one of the lucky ones. Out of my company, out of 150 people, there was only 50 of us that came out of that. … It was a loss that we shouldn’t have had, and it was a shame that we had to lose so many of our men.”

Army veteran Clifford Hullinger said, even 70 years later, he’s glad it’s over.

“It made the world a lot better. We got rid of a lot of Nazis, and stuff like that, and changed the whole face of Europe, and we feel like we did a good job,” Hullinger said.

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