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D-Day has special meaning for Hassin family

Don Hassin Sr., the father of Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Donald H. Hassin Jr., served as a U.S. Infantry officer during WWII, when the photograph at left was taken. He was among troops who landed at Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944.
Don Hassin Sr., the father of Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Donald H. Hassin Jr., served as a U.S. Infantry officer during WWII, when the photograph at left was taken. He was among troops who landed at Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944.

If you want to find out why June 6, 1944, D-Day, is a significant date in American history, check a history book. That's the day 150,000 Allied soldiers, 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft arrived at the beaches of Normandy, France. D-Day is widely regarded as the turning point against Nazi Germany in Europe during World War II. There are few dates considered more significant in U.S. military history.

If you want to find out what D-Day means on a more personal level to three generations of Judge Donald H. Hassin, Jr.'s family, just ask them.

The Waukesha County Circuit Court judge's son Jared Hassin is an infantry officer who graduated from West Point in 2013. He has "Omaha Beach" tattooed on his right shoulder.

The tattoo "kind of says it all" about the meaning of D-Day to his family, Judge Hassin said.

Jared Hassin recently completed U.S. Army Ranger School and is scheduled to complete Airborne School on his way to Army base Fort Carson in Colorado. He is expected to be assigned to a unit currently deployed in Afghanistan and is likely to head there in the coming weeks.

Judge Hassin's daughter, Kelsey, is a 2010 West Point graduate, served with the 1st Armored Division in Afghanistan, and was recently promoted to captain.

Of course, neither of the younger Hassins have first-hand knowledge of the D-Day invasion, but they have a close, reliable source from whom they've learned: their grand-father, Don Hassin Sr., was a platoon leader in the 29th Infantry Division that arrived at Omaha Beach on D-Day.

"It wasn't until two years ago, in helping my son with a paper he was writing at West Point, that he finally committed to paper the events of that day and several days that followed," the judge said of his father.

Six weeks after landing on Omaha Beach, just 179 soldiers of the 850 original members of his battalion were still with the unit. An estimated 9,000 soldiers were killed or wounded during the invasion.

"D-Day anniversaries are celebrated by me and my dad, who is still doing reasonably well at age 94, with a quick word of thanks from me.  The significance of his participation and survival is still a little overwhelming for both of us to this day," Judge Hassin said.

The eldest Hassin went on to a long and successful career in the Army, serving in combat again in Korea and in several other overseas assignments. He retired as a colonel in 1971.  

"Not bad for a kid from Chester, PA, who still says he enlisted voluntarily in 1942, so he wouldn't get drafted," Judge Hassin said.

His father returned to Omaha Beach as a tourist in the late 1990s, and the tour guide pretty much let him lead the way, Judge Hassin said. "His longest stop was at the cemetery where, he says, many of his closest friends are buried."

Judge Hassin graduated from West Point and served on active duty from 1971 to 1978 as an Infantry officer.  He served in the Wisconsin National Guard for 20 years, retiring as a colonel in 1998.

Hassin's wife Kathryn, a lawyer, did not serve in the military, but deserves a lot of credit.

"How she has dealt with us all over the years continues to be amazing!" Judge Hassin said.

Donald Hassin Jr. was first appointed to the Waukesha County bench in 1994. He was elected in 1995 and re-elected in 2001, 2007 and 2013.

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