NORMANDY, France – A foot taps
feverishly. Eyes wonder in every direction. Suddenly, the screech of aircraft tires
hitting the ground pierces the roaring calm.
As the aircraft comes to a
halt, Soldiers begin gathering their gear and stepping foot onto foreign soil.
Their presence is not for conflict, but to honor those who stepped foot on the same
soil 70 years ago.
Soldiers of the 1st
Infantry Division, along with other units within the U.S. Army, have been asked
to support the commemorative ceremonies for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings
in Normandy, France.
event created a great amount of pride for those who are participating.
“I am honored to be here,”
said Pfc. Pedro Beltran, Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard. “After
everything I have learned about World War II, I cannot wait to see Omaha
Although touring the area
around the famous battleground is on his to-do list, Beltran will do so with
more than sightseeing on his mind.
“I’m going to embrace
everything we do,” Beltran said. “For those who never got to see Normandy – the
ones who are not here with us today.”
Beltran’s brother never had
the opportunity to visit Normandy. His brother was wounded in Afghanistan in
2012. After a near recovery from his wounds, he died due to complications a
“He was going to be a
history teacher,” Beltran said. “He loved learning about the war – the great
men who were in it. He wanted to teach that to kids.”
Beltran is not the only one
with something to cross off the to-do list. A former division Soldier is hoping
to fulfill priorities, in addition to participating in ceremonies, sightseeing
and paying his respects.
Sgt. 1st Class Justin
Weathers, infantry platoon sergeant, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th
Infantry Division, who has served and deployed with the 1st Battalion, 28th
Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., has direct
family ties to the sands of Normandy.
“Both my grandfathers were
in Normandy,” Weathers said. “My maternal grandfather was an engineer who
landed at Utah Beach on June 6. My paternal grandfather was with the 1st Inf.
Div., landed on Omaha Beach June 12 and went on to fight at Cherbourg.”
The same engineer unit his
grandfather served in erected a monument on top of a German pillbox they over took
“After the war ended in
1945, my grandfather went back and helped build the monument,” Weathers said. “I
want to see that monument and have my picture taken next to it.”
However, a photograph isn’t
the only task Weathers has set out to achieve.
“I have copies of
photographs from my grandfather with me,” Weathers said. “One of them is of him
and three of his friends. All three of his friends were killed in action in
“I want to go down to Utah Beach
and bury the picture in the sand as a way to honor them and their sacrifice.”
As the ceremonies draw
near, Soldiers – both old and new – are beginning to feel the historic significance
of their presence. D-Day clearly isn’t just about one day, but a moment in time
that has affected so many of all ages and generations.
For more on the
anniversary, go to www.the70th-normandy.com.
• Soldiers from the 1st
Inf. Div. are taking part in ceremonial events surrounding the 70th anniversary
commemoration of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, through June 7.
• A team with the “Big Red
One’s” CGMCG and more than 20 Soldiers with the 4th IBCT are set to participate
in various ceremonies highlighting the historic World War II battle. The BRO
will be represented in more than 20 events.
• President Barack Obama is
scheduled to honor fallen American Soldiers at the American Cemetery ceremony
• For the first time in history, the German Army will
be included in the events commemorating the significant milestone.