World War II Veteran Shares Story on Memorial Day - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

World War II Veteran Shares Story on Memorial Day


On Memorial Day, we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect freedom and few know how high that cost is, as the troops who fight alongside the ones who never return home.

Lt. Francis Sydney Cunningham was a World War II Glider Pilot, who landed on D-Day. On Memorial Day, he shared his story, wearing the same uniform he was issued while serving his country. It still fits, the stripes and bars on his chest, and a set of wings. Wings that didn't come easy - glider pilots flew motorless, brakeless aircraft behind enemy lines in the fog of night. The job was a dangerous one.

"When they called him, he never said a word," said his wife, Eleanor Cunningham. "'We have war, I have to go.' He never said anything else - 'I love you very much, you can keep the home going.'"

Cunningham survived rough landings and a plane crash. He was missing in action for two weeks and he carried wounded friends through enemy lines to safety.

"He just would keep him quiet and laid on top of him until daylight," said Cunningham. "In the meantime, another friend had crashed his glider. Unfortunately they picked him up. The Germans got him."

When Cunningham was ordered to invade on D-Day, there was no question. His wife remembers so clearly, the story from her husband. 

"'Good luck boys, you're on your way and here you are your orders. Do not open your orders until you are in your glider,'" said Cunningham.

In his years of service, Lt. Cunningham lost several friends and his family says the sacrifices that were made were never lost on him, especially on days of remembrance like Memorial Day. Lt. Cunningham is a man of very few words at 92. his legacy of service and deep understanding of sacrifice lives on though. The decorated war veteran has instilled this in his children, his children's children, and even their children.

"He always wanted us to know what bravery was about," said Cunningham's grandson, John Pleasants. "And never be scared of anything. Always do what's right. And you know when your country calls you, you go. Don't complain about the pay. You go. "

They are the words of a war hero, shared by his family for all those who never got the chance.

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