As a paratrooper during World War II with the 508th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne unit, Cpl. Jack Schlegel experienced everything from D-Day to being captured by the Germans to sharing a drink with Gen. George Patton. Earlier this month, he was able to mark the anniversary of D-Day one more time, visiting Normandy just five days before he died at the age of 90.
"As much as it hurts to lose my dad I know that this last D-Day celebration in France fulfilled his life and he was at peace," his daughter, Susan LaBudde, told NBC News.
Schlegel was born in Germany in 1923, and emigrated to the U.S. at age 7. At 19, he parachuted into Normandy, and was later captured and tortured by the Germans four different times. Because he was fluent in German, he was able to survive — though he was always quick to point out that "even though I was born in Germany, I'm 100 percent American."
Accolades came from the Army — Schlegel received a Purple Heart from Patton, who then drank Johnnie Walker Black Label with him — as well as the French, who named a street near where he landed in his honor. When he visited the Chemin Jack Schlegel during his visit this month, he told NBC News that he didn't do anything alone, and often thought of the men who never made it back home.
"When I see it now, I get a little emotional," he said. "It is very honoring for me to have all these people here, and they appreciate what the Americans did." Watch a tribute to Schlegel below. --Catherine Garcia