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Former Chiefs LB Donnie Edwards helping World War II veterans return to Normandy

Donnie Edwards NBC Today Show.jpg
Posted at 3:32 PM, Jun 06, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Donnie Edwards played 197 games in the NFL, collecting over 1500 tackles, 23.5 sacks and four touchdowns in the 13-year NFL career, eight seasons with the Chiefs.

While no longer on the NFL gridiron, Edwards has a mission: to help World War II veterans return to the sites of the battlefields they fought on to protect the country.

Edwards, who was inspired by his grandfather who survived Pearl Harbor, created the non-profit Best Defense Foundation. Edwards, who did not serve, says this is his way to of giving back and honoring those who fought for the U.S. in World War II.

"These were all young kids who sacrificed their lives for us," Edwards told NBC News Kelly Cobiella. "It's up to us that we live a full life and we do the things that they fought for."

The foundation, with the help of Delta Airlines, was able to help 43 veterans return to the site of Normandy, exactly 79 years after the Invasion of Normandy began.

More than 4,400 American and Allied soldiers died during the battle within the first 24 hours of the invasion alone.

The trip was also supplied with a full medical team and each veteran was supplied with a caretaker.

One of those veterans included Richard Rossi. Rossi enlisted in the military at the young age of 19, alongside his childhood best friend Bob Bailey. Both were sent off to fight in France, but unfortunately, Rossi would be the only one to return home. Bailey was killed in action just days after landing.

Now at the age of 99, Rossi returned back to Normandy to visit Bailey's grave, something Bailey's mother wanted him to do before he died. When he arrived at Normandy, he could immediately feel Bailey was watching him.

"I heard the birds chirping and I feel like he's talking back to me," Rossi said told NBC News.

When he arrived at Bailey's grave at the Normandy American Cemetary, Rossi wanted to let Bailey know one more thing

"I forgot to tell you, we won the war, thanks to you," Rossi said.

Rossi, who has never traveled alone, says he wouldn't have fulfilled his promise without the help of Edwards and his foundation. Now that promised is fulfilled.