TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A group of local World War II veterans are departing from Tampa International Airport Thursday to attend the ceremonies commemorating the 78th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France.

“Many of us realize if they’ve ever talked to a WWII vet they are very humble,” said Amanda Baldwin, the co-chair of the trip sponsored by the Florida State Elks Association.

Both Malen Griep and Angel Maldonado are members of the Greatest Generation. They were just 18 and 17 years old when their service in the U.S. Army began during World War II.

“I just go back to they were kids and they fought for our country,” Baldwin said.

Maldonado spent 18 months in Japan.

“They didn’t allow us to go in restaurants to eat because we didn’t know if they were gonna poison us,” he said.

Griep fought in Europe and witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust as American troops liberated the Dachau concentration camp in Germany in April 1945.

“The tanks rolled in and knocked the gate down, that’s where we walked,” Gripe said. “My group headed to the railyards.”

Both of these WWII veterans said they are honored to travel to Normandy for the 78th anniversary of the Allied invasion that turned the tide in the war against the Nazis.

“We are free because of what they did and what they did prevented that conflict from coming to our land other than Pearl Harbor,” Baldwin said.

The Florida State Elks Association has also organized trips for veterans to visit Pearl Harbor.