World War II veteran from Aventura heads to England for a Memorial Day 75th Anniversary
It’s been more than seven decades since Sydney Levit flew in a C-47 airplane as a paratrooper for the U.S. Army during World War II.
But Levit, who is now 94 and lives in Aventura, is getting a chance to “take a ride” in a remodeled version.
“The big excitement is they remodeled the C-47 airplane that I used in 1944,” Levit, a Purple Heart recipient and decorated war veteran, said last week ahead of a trip to the Memorial Day 75th Anniversary Ceremony at the Cambridge American Cemetery in England. “We’re going to take a flight, which I am really looking forward to.”
But Levit, who was sent off on his adventure at Miami International Airport with dignitaries, an honor guard presentation and fanfare from fellow passengers, said he had one rule: “No parachute. I am not going.”
Levit arrived at the airport Wednesday well before his 5 p.m. flight to London Gatwick Airport. He will be overseas for six days.
The trip was made possible through Honor Flight South Florida, an organization that helps veterans visit the World War II Memorial in Washington. The group also arranges for veterans to participate in other events worldwide.
Every year, a ceremony is held at Cambridge American Cemetery in England for Memorial Day. The cemetery holds the remains of 3,811 Americans who were killed during World War II. Another 5,127 names are recorded on the Walls of the Missing.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, which began on June 6, 1944, and led to Allied troops being deployed in Western Europe. Levit will be the only World War II vet from America at the ceremony, says Honor Flight South Florida.
More than 425,000 Allied and German troops died from Operation Overlord, which began on D-Day and ended Aug. 30, when the Germans retreated across the Seine River.
With the help of Miami International Airport, Levit was greeted with signs of thanks and American flags and banners. Passengers waiting to get on the same flight cheered him on and snapped photos of the veteran.
“They were a brave generation,” said Kelley Hammeran, who was heading back to Ireland through England. “I am honored to be on the same flight. For someone to survive all that and thrive as much as he has, gives me hope.”
Lester Sola, the director and chief executive of the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, recognized Levit’s sacrifice.
“It is really an honor for this airport to take an opportunity and thank the efforts of Sydney for everything he has ever done,’’ he said. “Not just for this country, but really for humanity and mankind.”
“We recognize your efforts. We recognize your sacrifice and we wish you Godspeed,” Sola said.
Levit was born July 17, 1924, in Philadelphia. After high school, he enlisted.
“You had to be young and dumb,” he said about being a soldier. “And it was an experience of a lifetime.”
As a paratrooper in the 17th Airborne Division, Levit “fought Nazi tyranny, liberated nations, and freed concentration camps,” Honor Flight South Florida said. Among his missions: Fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium.
He said visiting the cemetery will not be easy.
“The cemetery has 3,800 young people buried there; it’s beyond my comprehension,” he said. “I have never been to a cemetery so far away from the United States.”
He is going on the six-day journey with his son Paul. Paul said being with his dad on the adventure is “really special.”
”Their sacrifice gets to be remote as time goes on,” he said. “It’s important that we recognize their sacrifice.”
As for making the trip, Levit simply said: “It’s an honor beyond my possible dreams at my age that something like this would happen.”