91-Year-Old World War II Vet Visits Town He Helped Liberate, Thanks to Virtual Reality
Frank Mouqué returned to the French town of Armentières, 72 years after he helped liberate it from the Nazis.
And he did it without leaving the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the home for British army veterans where the 91-year-old lives, about 186 miles away.
Mouqué, wearing a virtual reality device, was serenaded by a group of local children, who sang him a nursery rhyme. Mayor Bernard Haesebroeck called the veteran a hero and awarded him a medal of honor.
Mouqué readily remembers the Normandy invasion. “It was chaos. We were bombed, shelled, sniped, fired at, constantly,” he says in a video by Mutiny Media. The project was orchestrated by Twine, an online freelance network.
“There were quite a lot of casualties. I lost a lot of my friends, one way or another,” he said.
He was a corporal in the 263 Field Company of the British Royal Engineer, tasked with laying and defusing mines and blowing up structures, including bridges.
On D-Day, he helped clear a path through a beach thick with landmines in advance of his fellow invaders.
His virtual reality experience felt so real, Mouqué was momentarily overcome.
“Fantastic!” he exclaimed, shaking his head. “I’m sorry. I’m just lost for words.”
He will treasure the medal, he said.
“I’m honored, on behalf of all of us who were there. I mean, I’m 91.
"There’s still hundreds of us, but we’re a diminishing breed, aren’t we? On behalf of all the people who were with me, they would say thank you, too.”