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On Monday, Americans honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Memorial Day was established 144 years ago, three years after the end of the Civil War. What was then called Decoration Day served as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.

On this Memorial Day, The Bee presents the stories of five veterans of foreign wars who now call the Fresno area home:

John D. Roberts, 90, Fresno

John Roberts was born in Missouri, but his family settled in Southern California. During World War II, Roberts was working at Douglas Aircraft Co. designing tools for the war effort when he was drafted into the Army. He was transferred into the Army Air Corps and became a gunner on a B-17 named the "Homesick Angel."

Roberts remembers flying on a secret mission in the dead of night from Amendola Field in Foggia, Italy.

"No one knew where we were going, except maybe the pilot and navigator, but I knew we were going north because we were following the path of some river. When we landed, we heard Russian voices. It turns out we were in Mirgorod, Ukraine, in early June 1944, just a few days before D-Day."

AUDIO: WWII veteran John Roberts talks about painting his B-17 to protect against German trickery as his crew prepared for D-Day at a base in Russia (link for tablet users):