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William Tucker, at 19, as a young soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II. (Courtesy))

Bedford woman continues the legacy of her father, a WWII veteran

BEDFORD — Determined to continue her father’s legacy, a local woman has dedicated her life to helping veterans in their final hours.

For Sandy Duggan of Bedford, Veterans Day is a time to reflect, honor and cherish her late father William Tucker, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division that eventually liberated Ste. Mere-Eglise in Normandy, France, from German occupation during World War II.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Tucker parachuted into Ste. Mere-Eglise, eventually meeting the mayor of the town, Alexandre Renaud, and forming a lasting friendship.

Their story of friendship and compassion — despite the war — has had a profound impact on Duggan, even 71 years after D-Day.

“My father went back every year to Europe. He recognized and created tributes to soldiers that lost their lives during the war — he made that his drive in life,” said Duggan. “He did this throughout his life, and he made many friendships along the way. It was just part of his blood.”

When Tucker died at the age of 85 in 2008, the family buried his ashes in France, where other men from his unit died on D-Day.

“He had a forever connection to that country, and he had a deep connection with the people who lived there,” said Duggan.

After her father’s death, Duggan said she was committed to extending the strong friendship between the Tucker and Renaud families — even if they were separated by the North Atlantic Ocean.

That connection continues today, as Duggan now has a special bond with Renaud’s son, Henri-Jean Renaud.

Even after the passing of both fathers, their families maintain the relationship that was built decades ago, and they have each found ways to honor those experiences and carry that service forward, according to Duggan.

From left, Karen Tucker and her sister Sandy Duggan join Henri-Jean Renaud and William Tucker during a previous reunion between the Renaud and Tucker families. (Courtesy)

Last year, Duggan implemented the national We Honor Veterans Program at Merrimack’s Home Health and Hospice Care facility as a way to give back to all of the veterans who have sacrificed so much for her freedom, including her father.

In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Hospice Foundation, We Honor Veterans is a program designed to recognize the special needs of veterans and their families, and also encourage veterans to share their life stories before it is too late.

It is more than just awards and ceremonies, according to Duggan, who said the program provides an opportunity for veterans who are hospice patients to share their war experiences in a peaceful manner surrounded by family support and encouragement.

“This is also an opportunity to thank our veterans. They can never be thanked enough for what they have done,” said Duggan. “They have very unique needs psychologically, physically and emotionally.”

To date, up to 40 ceremonies have been held in the past year, although some of those have been posthumous recognition events.

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