THORNTOWN, Ind. (WISH) – The massive downtown display called ‘Shining A Light’ will premiere on Monument Circle Saturday night.
In partnership with Downtown Indy, Visit Indy offered one veteran a chance to win a front-row seat to all the action.
The offer also comes with dinner at St. Elmo Steak House and tickets to Sunday’s Colts game against the Miami Dolphins.
After News 8 aired a story calling for nominations, Visit Indy said more than 250 veterans were nominated.
The winner of the “Shining A Light” veteran giveaway is Normand Marchand of Thorntown, Indiana.
Normand is an 83-year-old father of five. He’s a family man who loves his country, which is evident from the Statue of Liberty that sits on his front lawn surrounded by American flags.
But, it’s not Normand’s decorations which his family is most proud of.
“When my father sees the flag he tears up. He does,” said Normand’s daughter, Nancy Marchand-Martella.
When Marchand-Martella first read about the “Shining A Light” giveaway, she said she immediately thought of her dad.
Marchand-Martella is the Dean of Education at Purdue University.
“I’m a pretty good writer, so I decided to write the essay and nominate him,” Marchand-Martella said.
As for Normand, as his friends and family call him, he said his journey started 65 years ago.
“That’s going back to 1954. I had just turned 18-years-old,” said Normand.
It was the Korean War and Normand had joined the Air Force, specializing in training new fighter jet pilots.
He then spent two years stationed in France.
“We’d go on missions and go to French Morocco places like that,” said Normand.
After being discharged in 1957, Normand met the love of his life at a dance during ladies’ choice.
“My buddies said, they said ‘Norm don’t turn now she’s right behind you,'” Normand recalled.
Shortly after, this veteran worked various jobs in the Navy.
But when bases started to close, the family found themselves in Indianapolis.
Memories of war started to fade.
“We were more involved in other things, we had five kids,” said Annette Marchand.
Twenty years went by before Norm met a member of the Thorntown American Legion while at church who invited Norm to his first veteran event.
Normand was hooked.
This veteran has now spent the last two decades remembering veterans and honoring their families.
“My father has worked hard to learn how to fold the flag and present it to the family with tears in his eyes. He also shoots a rifle during the ceremony in the traditional gun salute,” read Nancy’s nomination.
“The respect you have for these families when you fold the flag and you present the flag, there is nothing better than that,” said Normand, fighting tears.
As part of American Legion Post 218, Normand also speaks around Boone County making sure people there never forget.
“The society has lost the ability to know what they’ve got. And who are the people that stood up for that,” said Norm.
As Veterans Day approaches, Normand and his family are looking forward to celebrating ‘Shining A Light’ and toasting to those who served at St. Elmo Steakhouse – with a cocktail says Norm.
“Maybe a shrimp cocktail,” joked Annette.
To read Nancy’s letter nominating her father, click here.