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Museum of American Armor to send one Long Island student to Normandy, France for D-Day anniversary

Museum of American Armor to send one student to Normandy for D-Day anniversary
Museum of American Armor to send one student to Normandy for D-Day anniversary 02:32

OLD BETHPAGE, N.Y. -- Tuesday marks 79 years since D-Day, when 160,000 allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France during World War II

Tuesday morning on Omaha Beach, relatives and friends gathered to remember their loved ones. 

More than 2,500 Americans were killed. 

The invasion led to the liberation of France from the Nazis, and the end of the war in Europe. 

On Long Island, students are involved in a unique Normandy history challenge influenced by a remarkable 97-year-old veteran. 

Mortimer Roberts of East Northport was an 18-year-old naval aviation mechanic on D-Day. 

"I joined the service. I joined the Navy to get into the war. I wanted to get in there so I could end it," Roberts said. 

End the rule of one man: Adolph Hitler, Roberts said. 

"All the information, how he's taken one country after the other, we were kept in the dark. We didn't know if we were going to be on the invasion," Roberts said, referring to the mounting Allied assault at Normandy, France. 

Roberts came home to marry his sweetheart. He recently became a widower, and is now on a mission: Going forward while honoring the past.

"Our history programs are dying," Roberts said. 

Gavin Oggeri, 20, is a Stony Brook University history major. He's also a volunteer at the Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage. 

"A lot in my generation are oblivious that D-Day was incredibly significant to the downfall of Nazi tyranny," Oggeri said. 

Long Island and beyond as families remember and honor the brave soldiers of D-Day. 

The museum has created a unique challenge. 

"The heroism, the legacy they left behind, is so important for students to learn in schools," Gloria Sesso of the Long Island Council of Social Studies said. 

Students were asked to submit D-Day essays, judged by a panel of local heroes. The winner will be awarded a trip to Normandy next June for the 80th anniversary. 

"We will pick out the most sincere and the most insightful student who has written about D-Day," Museum of American Armor trustee Michael Sapraicone said. 

Any college student from Long Island, regardless of what school they attend, is eligible for the historic and life-changing trip. 

"My grandfather was in WWII," Oggeri said. 

He said the essay challenge sounds perfect for him. 

"They all fought and died for the freedom of the world," Oggeri said. 

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