Kathie Lee Gifford just spoke out to talk about her deeply personal connection to World War II as she prepares to collaborate with Ancestry to bring the world a virtual Memorial Day parade.
The 66 year-old former “Today” cohost said that she was ecstatic when she was asked to host the Memorial Day “Parade of Heroes” on May 25, an event that will also serve as a celebration of the end of World War II.
“I just have always been extraordinarily grateful for people’s service. I always say: ‘And thank you for your service.’ I mean, being locked down so much in these past couple of months, I think people understand how precious our freedom is,” Gifford told Fox News. “And it’s never free. It’s got the word ‘free’ in it but somebody had to fight for that – for us to have it.”
“I was so honored that they asked me – they could have asked anybody and probably everybody would have done it. But they asked me and I was honored. Very much so,” she added.
Gifford went on to say that she “respects and applauds” past and present servicemen and women “all over the world working right now to secure that and to maintain such a necessary part of our existence – to know that we’re secure and in our own homes, in our own country.”
She also talked about her own connection to World War II, explaining that her father was a 20-year veteran who served in the Navy and lied at age 17 so that he could join the military. He went on to serve in Europe, where Gifford herself would be born.
“My father was a 20-year veteran as well,” she said. “He lied about his age – I always say to him it was the only bad thing he ever did. Lied about his age when he was 17-years-old when Pearl Harbor happened and joined the Navy as well.”
“And during World War II, his stepfather was killed in action. His oldest brother was killed in action. His other brother was wounded,” Gifford continued. “So my daddy was the only one who came home physically unscathed by the war. But obviously, no one comes away from war unscathed emotionally in one way or another. So it was all a great personal loss to our family.”
Gifford was born in Paris, France in 1953 because her father was stationed at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) Headquarters on General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s staff.
“So my father continued to serve in Europe after the war and then served many, many more years at the U.S. Naval Station in Washington, D.C.,” Gifford said. “So, yes, there’s a long history. And I just have always been extraordinarily grateful for people’s service.”
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Gifford also said that she is excited to have the opportunity to celebrate Memorial Day with everyone.
“In the past, what people did was they went to their Memorial Day parade down their main streets of their towns and then maybe remembered somebody in their family that had passed or been killed or served in the war,” she said. “But rarely do we hear the individual stories told so beautifully. I know that they are living combat veterans, but they span different generations and different wars. So we have a different perspective, too. It’s not just World War II.”
“I mean this is the 75th anniversary of the final end of World War II. So it’s got extra meaning in that respect to 75 years since we won that incredible battle against tyranny on two different continents,” added Gifford. “So I’m grateful that we’re going to be able to do this. These stories are extraordinary.”
Ancestry’s “Parade of Heroes” can be seen on their Facebook page on May 25 at 11 a.m. EST.
This piece originally appeared in UpliftingToday.com and is used by permission.
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