Kaneohe resident receives special mention


POSTED: Sunday, June 07, 2009

OMAHA BEACH, FRANCE » D. Zane Schlemmer, 84, of Kaneohe was among veterans singled out yesterday by President Barack Obama for special mention during ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of D-Day at the American Cemetery in Normandy.

The president said the story of D-Day was told by men like Schlemmer, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, who “;parachuted into a dark marsh, far from his objective and his men. Lost and alone, he still managed to fight his way through the gunfire and help liberate the town in which he landed.”;

French President Nicolas Sarkozy pinned a French Legion of Honor medal to Schlemmer's chest.

Schlemmer said before leaving Hawaii he hoped with the help of another 82nd Airborne Division veteran, former Capt. Chester Graham, to drop orchid blossoms over the French village he was supposed to parachute to on June 6, 1944.

Also in Normandy for the observance was U.S. Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, a native of Kauai. He traveled there with a group including Obama's great-uncle, Charles Payne, a member of the first division to reach and liberate a Nazi concentration camp.

Obama paid tribute to his grandfather, Stanley Dunham, who arrived in Normandy six weeks after D-Day, and “;Uncle Charlie,”; as he calls Payne.

Stanley Dunham helped raise Obama and is buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

Senior adviser David Axelrod told reporters later Obama was thankful “;for the opportunity to be with his uncle at this place, knowing that this opportunity may not come again.”; He said it was a “;personally emotional time”; for the president.