Event to remember 70th anniversary of D-Day

CHAMPION – In honor of the largest land and sea invasion in world history, the D-Day+70 committee is inviting the community to the D-Day 70th anniversary ceremony June 6 in the Champion High School auditorium.

The ceremony will center on World War II veterans, specifically those in the Mahoning Valley who served on D-Day.

More than 160,000 soldiers landed June 6 on the Normandy coast, with 53 Trumbull County veterans part of the invasion, event coordinator David Luther said. A total 1,600 servicemen from the Mahoning Valley lost their lives in World War II, Luther said.

D-Day is often overlooked by other military holidays, even though the invasion is not only significant to soldiers, but also history, Luther said.

“We want to recognize those veterans who’ve given so much, even those who passed away. We want to recognize achievements made and give the community a chance to register in the symphony of gratefulness,” he said. “Come and say thank you to those heroes who are so quickly fading away.”

Guest speaker Lt. Col. Ed Meade offered to have a motorcycle escort led by the American Legion Post 700 direct local World War II veterans through Camp Ravenna prior to program. There, a camp historian will provide a brief history of the former Ravenna Arsenal during World War II.

“All residents are invited to tour the camp,” Luther said. “We’re trying to get all the World War II veterans that we can. Nursing homes, family members, neighbors, if you know of one, inform them. We don’t want anyone to be forgotten.”

The committee requests the general public participate, whether or not they can join the tour. Those who are unable to partake in the escort can line the streets of Champion Avenue to the high school with signs of gratitude and flags.

“We’re asking businesses to participate, too,” Luther said. “We want the veterans to see who and what they fought for.”

The ceremony’s highlights include indoor and outdoor displays with news reels, vehicles and aircraft used on D-Day, singers and a performance by the Cortland Community Band, and most importantly testimonies from local World War II veterans.

Sue Shafer, a committee member and the Tribune Chronicle’s special events coordinator, said, “We’re inviting the community to be a part of witnessing and hearing living history. People will hear these veterans’ stories for the first time.”

Shafer said school classrooms, scout groups, church groups, or anyone who wants to be proactive, can donate thank you cards by dropping them off or mailing them to the newspaper.

The committee is also making a slide show with photographs of local veterans who fought in World War II and on D-Day. People who have pictures of loved ones who served can submit them, along with the veteran’s name and branch, to Luther at June1944plus70@gmail.com.

Shafer and Luther said D-Day is a day for everyone, worldwide, to revere. Even when the ceremony is over, both the audience and veterans will have something to remember.

“We’re recognizing everyone’s contribution in this effort,” Luther said. “Be a part of the symphony of gratefulness.”

Luther said the ceremony is a way to get younger generations involved.

“Children don’t realize they are going to be a part of history and remember this the rest of their lives,” he said. ”This may be our last opportunity to get the largest number of World War II veterans as we can in one room.”