Woodsfield Man Participates in D-Day Ceremonies, Meets Three Presidents in One Week

Herman Zerger is pictured with former President Bill Clinton.Herman Zerger, one of Monroe County’s most decorated veterans, is accustomed to receiving honors. However, his whirlwind week in early June even came as a surprise to the WWII vet and former prisoner of war.

Beginning with the D-Day ceremonies in France on June 6, and culminating at the Ohio Democratic Dinner on June 13, Zerger met three presidents in a week’s time. Two were United States presidents (current President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton) with the third being French President Francois Hollande.

Zerger’s journey began on June 6 when he traveled to Pointe Du Hoc and Sainte Marie du Mont in France to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion which saw Allied troops begin the push (at great loss of lives) on the Western front to take back Europe. It was Zerger’s eighth time to attend D-Day ceremonies in France, but it was also his most memorable.

Zerger was designated as one of only eight veterans who greeted President Obama as he stepped off the helicopter upon arrival. The President smiled at him and shook his hand upon disembarking. “When he shook my hand I felt something, and he had presented me with the presidential coin,” said Zerger.

At the ceremonies, as President Obama and other world leaders spoke, Zerger was given a seat of honor in the front row. As the ceremony ended, he again shook the President’s hand and briefly met French President Hollande who thanked all the U.S. veterans at the ceremony. 

In a day that started at 7 a.m. and ended at 11 p.m., Zerger met several people and heard many interesting stories. As part of the D-Day ceremonies, several paratroopers who had been part of the invasion, performed a jump. One particular jump master had been speaking with Zerger and asked, “Will you jump with me?” An initial “yes” turned to a “no,” and Zerger was happy to watch the somber ceremony from the ground.

Zerger was also honored with several other veterans at a dinner in Sainte Marie du Mont. He said of the hospitality extended to the veterans, “The French people were very nice to me. They appreciate what we did for them. They go all-out for [D-Day ceremonies].”

While the D-Day ceremonies were a once-in-a-lifetime event, Zerger’s week didn’t end there. On June 13, Zerger attended the Ohio Democratic Dinner. The keynote speaker was former President Clinton. Zerger was one of only 30 people attending chosen to meet the president for a photo opportunity.

Zerger credits the opportunities he had to long-time friends Max Cleland and John Marshall who are, respectively, the Secretery and Chief Assistant of the American Battle Monuments Commission. Despite Zerger’s service to our country, he is still humbled by the opportunities he has received. “I’m honored to be asked and to go to these places,” said Zerger.