TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Sixty-three members of the greatest generation embarked on a trip to Normandy, France Thursday.

World War II veterans and their caretakers will attend ceremonies to mark the 78th anniversary of D-Day.

For many of them, it’s the first time they’ll step foot in Europe in almost 80 years.

“I’m curious to see the changes. I know there’s a lot of changes since I was there,” veteran Leon Spychalski said.

March 1948 was the last time Leon “Spike” Spychalski was in Europe. It was his final year serving in the army, but years before that he had to figure out a way to enlist.

“I was 16 but on my birth certificate I made it I was 17 so I can get it in,” Spychalski said. “I was ready to go, my brother was there and I said, ‘I’m going.’ My mother said, ‘It’s all up to you.'”

Spychalski was an interpreter, speaking five different languages.

“I spoke Polish, Slovak, Russian, German and French,” Spychalski said.

He’s one of dozens of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm veterans flying from Tampa to Normandy for the 78th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

The Florida State Elk’s Association is sponsoring the trip.

“They loaded us in a box car and said you’re off to Nancy. I had no idea what I was going to be doing,” World War II veteran Malen Griep said.

Spychalski is one of many people speaking in Normandy on the anniversary.

He wishes his wife was still alive to go with him. She died years ago. The two were married almost 67 years and their anniversary was June 6, the same day as the anniversary of D-Day.

“Never dawned on me at the time, D-Day until a couple of years later I said, ‘Oh, D-Day, wow,'” Spychalski said.

The ceremonies in Normandy will be on Monday.