FARMINGTON — Walter Dorman sat with hands clasped in his son's living room, the ferocity of the story he was about to tell belied only by the slight red fringing around his calm, blue eyes.
In 90 years, those eyes have seen the world change. His gaze shifted around the room, searching, it seemed, for a place to start.
Then he described the sinking feeling as the door to the landing craft dropped on that day in 1944. The cold spray of the water would have been bracing had it not been for the sight before him.
It was June 6 D-Day, the beginning of the allied invasion of Europe during World War II and Dorman, a technical sergeant with the 821st Tank Destroyer Battalion, was filled with shock and disbelief as he looked out at Omaha Beach.
He could have stayed in the states and been a mail driver in Tennessee, he thought, but he asked to be shipped out. He had wanted to, "go over there."
His unit was in the third wave that day as fire rained down from the German fortifications. Men drowned in the deep water or were shot to pieces around him. Airplanes whizzed overhead.
Dorman's job was to disable the German forces' Tiger tanks, but the 76 mm rounds they were given could not penetrate the tank's armor.
After Omaha Beach, Dorman served in battles in Brest, France; Saint-L , France; and Aachen, Germany, among others.
Of the 56 men in his platoon, only 12 made it back to the United States.
"For years I couldn't talk about the war because of what I had to do there," Dorman said, his voice trailing off.
During a battle near Aachen, an officer ordered him to fire on a house with an explosive round.
When the dust cleared Dorman stopped for a moment to look inside and saw the bodies of German soldiers alongside civilians.
"It's the innocent people," he said. "Little kids ... it really hurts. I was stupid enough to stop and see what I had done."
About six months ago, Dorman began to open up about his war experience to his family.
He had always told stories, bits and pieces of what he did in France and Germany, but he never told the whole story, said his oldest grandson, also named Walter.
Recently, a U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs doctor recommended that he see a psychologist, Dorman said.
"She helped me a lot," he said. "She told me to just get it out of my system."
His system was filled to the brim.
Dorman remembered seeing the brutal consequences of the Holocaust near Aachen.
His unit approached the railhead after a long battle with the German forces.
Bullet-ridden stock cars were everywhere, he said.
They opened the doors, and one by one looked inside.
"They had the Jews in the (cars)," Dorman said. "They had shot and killed every one of them."
When the German officers were questioned about the bodies they tried to blame the American P-47 fighter-bombers strafing the area, he said.
"We could see where they had set up the machine guns," he said.
But the war also had a lighter side, Dorman said.
As the 821st pushed further into Germany, he rigged up a radio.
"We'd listen to Axis Sally (Mildred Elizabeth Gillars, who spread German propaganda) every night until midnight," he said. "She'd be telling us to give up and that we couldn't win, but she played some good music. We just laughed about it."
After returning to the United States, Dorman moved to Aztec in 1950 and went to work for the El Paso Natural Gas Company, first as a welder and later as an inspector.
"He's worked on most of the (gas) pipe in the county," his son Eddie said.
Dorman then joined a pipeliners' union and found work across the country before finally retiring at the age of 80.
About four years ago, Dorman fought another battle -- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
He won after multiple surgeries and chemotherapy.
Since then, he hasn't slowed down.
"I attribute my good health to dancing," Dorman said.
Dorman's eyes shifted again as he wrapped up his story. Old pictures lay on a table in front of him, and a letter from Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts congratulating him on his 90th birthday, which was Friday. But even as he remembers the past, Dorman looks eagerly toward the future. His third wife, Donna Trembley, is planning a celebration for him, complete with a country and western band.
"I've had a good life," he said. "I used to close that country palace down seven nights a week."