MILLBROOK, Ala. (WBRC) - Dr. Donald E. Hayhurst celebrated his 97th birthday on Thursday with a commendation from Governor Kay Ivey, complete with a parade and ceremony organized by the City of Millbrook and the American Red Cross.
Hayhurst was drafted when he was 18 years old to serve in the Army during World War II. In June 1944, his tank recovery unit landed on Omaha Beach 10 days after the Allies invaded Normandy. The unit supported combat missions during the Battle of the Bulge and Rhineland. At the end of WWII, Hayhurst received a field commission to first lieutenant and was later recalled into service during the Korean War.
For his bravery and valiant service, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor for United States Veterans for his heroic actions and risking his life in the liberation of France during WWII.
After his military service, Hayhurst earned his PhD in political science at the University of Pittsburgh, and would later establish the department of political science at Auburn University as a full professor.
Hayhurst returned to France in Nov. 2018 with one of his former students at Auburn and toured the five landing sites for Allied Forces during World War II, bringing home sand from Omaha Beach.
On Thursday, Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner W. Kent Davis presented Hayhurst with the commendation from Gov. Ivey. Organizations on hand included the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs (ADVA), the Central Alabama Veterans Healthcare System (CAVHCS), Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) and Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).