Fort Riley, Kansas



Anticipation builds as ‘Big Red One’ arrives in France for commemoration

By Sgt. 1st Class Abram Pinnington | 1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS | June 11, 2014

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.

The once-in-a-lifetime 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 Beach.”

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 year later.

“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 during D-Day.

“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 France.

“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


• 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 June 6.

• For the first time in history, the German Army will be included in the events commemorating the significant milestone.
Tag D-Day   Tag history   Tag Normandy