How fortunate we are to be able to talk to real legends

Rick Jackson has hit the gym in an effort to be healthy  (Shutterstock)

RICK JACKSON: Who’s the wise guy? Me!

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Summer 2014 will be one to savour for years to come.

Not for the perennial disappointment of England underachieving in the World Cup in Brazil, or maybe Andy Murray retaining his crown at Wimbledon (although the latter would be outrageous).

No, it’s because our fair city is hosting a series of superb events commemorating D-Day – an event that has shaped our lives.

From the start of June, we’ll be able to listen, learn, understand and pay respect to the brilliant men and women who played their part in the most audacious amphibious invasion in history.

This week I hosted an event at the Square Tower. Five guests spoke of their own experiences before, during and after D-Day.

Humble, dignified and stoical, each recalled incidents and emotions from 70 years ago. It was a privilege to be there.

At 15 Colette, a self-trained nurse who toiled away with the French resistance, would regularly pull a horse cart for two days, taking the wounded to her nearest hospital while circumnavigating Nazi aggressors.

Stellar, now a sharp-talking octogenarian, spoke of the night before D-Day when she was commandeered to host 60 of the most senior ranking officers at a final gathering. Her duty? To pacify the men and help them focus ahead of the campaign. She was just 19 years old.

And Frank, a loveable cockney geezer, who was in the second wave of infantry soldiers running up the beach, witnessing unthinkable sights, sounds and smells.

Frank, who took a bullet to the face, talked in a gracious, humorous style about his mates, his dislike of Hitler and the mysterious contents of the never-ending stew he lived on.

Portsmouth was the main cog in the D-Day machine and the city and surrounding areas still offer timely reminders of the build-up and launch.

Fitting, then, that we will open our arms to veterans, their families and the world’s media, offering the perfect platform to reminisce and show respect.

The word legend is thrown about a lot these days. But how lucky we are that on our doorstep we can meet, talk to and listen to a whole generation of them.