ABILENE, Kan. (KAKE) - From a helicopter flyover to a seven gun salute, Kansans joined much of the world on June 6th in honoring the few still surviving veterans of World War II.

At the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, some 25 World War II veterans paraded to the foot of the statue of Kansas' favorite son, the man who developed the plans for the invasion of Europe and led the invasion itself, General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Military salutes and civilian thank yous greeted them, as did the recorded words of their former leader as he launched them onto those beaches.

"You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe and security for ourselves in a free world."

John Mock fought in the Battle of the Bulge and says back then he never imagined a moment like this.

"We dug foxholes in the snow. That's what we lived in," he said.

He and his unit ended up spending nine days behind enemy lines before being captured. The survivors then spent the next 99 days as prisoners of war.

"We were locked up in box cars," he said, left sitting on the tracks unmoving for days after an American plane shot up the locomotive.

President Eisenhower's great-grandson is handing out certificates of appreciation to World War II veterans at the D-Day memorial in Abilene on June 6, 2024.

When they were finally rescued, he said, they were like living skeletons.

He comes back to the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum most years on June 6th. This 80th anniversary is special, though.

"It's pretty nice," he said. "It's a lot bigger than what we had last year."

There he shares his stories of his experiences eight decades ago and accepts the thanks of grateful Kansans.

"To the veterans who are here with us today, thank you for your services. Yours is truly the Greatest Generation," said Gov. Laura Kelly, to applause.

Maj. Gen. Paul Stanton, commanding general of the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and the newly re-dubbed Fort Eisenhower in Georgia, said it took him several hours to get over his nervousness about speaking to such a select group of veterans.

"I stand here with immense pride and immense reverence for your dedication and your service and for your setting the conditions for our future," he told them.

U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, told the veterans what he once told his father, also a World War II vet who's since passed away.

"The message to you across the country is: We respect you. We thank you for your service. And, we love you," he said.

Gen. Eisenhower's actions during the war are documented within the museum at his presidential library, including his insistence upon documenting the horrors of the Holocaust so no one could deny they'd happened.

It's something many see as even more important today than in when he first did it, what with the rise in false information about World War II, antisemitism and white supremacy just as we're slowly losing the first-hand witnesses, those veterans who fought in that war.

"We cannot forget this now. That was fighting for freedom and liberty," said Gov. Kelly. "And we still have it and it's because of what they did."

"I hope they do remember," Mock said.