ATLANTA (AP) — A 94-year-old man who fought for the U.S. in World War II is heading to France for D-Day ceremonies, a journey he nearly wasn't able to make because he didn't have the proof of his citizenship needed to get a passport.
But after getting some help from social media and his local congressman to overcome his financial and passport issues, Sherwin Callander, of Alabama, was set to board a plane Monday night for Paris.
Callander heard last month about ceremonies for the 70th anniversary of D-Day and said he thought it would be meaningful to attend. He hadn't been back to France since landing on Utah Beach during the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 and had cherished memories of buddies lost that day.
But Callander hit a snag when he went to get a passport. Born in Canada in 1920 to an American mother and having lived in the United States since the age of 3, Callander didn't have any documentation that proved his U.S. citizenship.
He also didn't have enough money to pay for the trip.
His granddaughter, Elaine Oakes, who will accompany him to France, set up an account two weeks ago on an online fundraising website to tell the story of the man she calls "Papa" and his wish to go to Normandy. She set a goal of $5,000. By Monday, donations from 249 people totaled just over $10,000.
Oakes also helped her grandfather work through a bureaucratic maze to get the necessary papers for his passport, and she credits the office of their congressman, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, with speeding things along. On Friday, Callander learned he had an appointment with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Atlanta to get a certificate of citizenship. That would be followed by an appointment at the passport office to get a specially expedited passport.
After getting the citizenship certificate Monday morning, Callander recited the Oath of Allegiance to the United States flanked by two active U.S. Army members who happened to receive U.S. citizenship that day.
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