13:59 | Ranville (France), Aug. 20.
A 102-year-old Peruvian veteran of the Allied Landing in Normandy in 1944 has returned to the land where his "comrades died" for the first time in 75 years, the trip's organizers reported.
"This return to Normandy brings me memories and makes me sad. My comrades are dead. The war must not exist (…)," said Jorge Sanjinez, an ex-sergeant who landed in early August 1944 in Arromanches (Normandy) with the Belgian Brigade, also known as the Piron Brigade
"I was lucky. Something told me I was not going to die, and here I am, greeting France, such a beautiful country. Thanks to France, Belgium, and Holland," added the veteran, who fought in these three countries during World War II.
According to the Royal National Federation of Veterans of the Piron Brigade, Sanjinez —who had applied for Belgian citizenship after the war, but in vain— attended a Monday ceremony in memory of the first Belgian soldier killed at the Battle of Normandy on August 17, 1944.
The homage was held at Ranville, a British War Cemetery in Normandy, where the 20-year-old soldier is buried, an AFP journalist confirmed.
"This is the first time he (Jorge Sanjinez) returns since he left 75 years ago. €10,000 (about US$11,106) has been raised (…) to organize his return, accompanied by two relatives," the Federation's Secretary Jean-Louis Marichal told AFP.
The Peruvian former veteran was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French Ambassador to Peru in 2017.
Under British command, the Piron Brigade numbered 2,000 men who spoke 33 different languages. Twenty-seven were killed in action during the Normandy campaign and 65 were seriously wounded, according to the Federation's website.
In 1944, he took part in the liberation of French communities: Cabourg (August 21), Deauville (August 22), Honfleur (August 24), and Brussels (September 3).