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Cantigny Park hosting D-Day events for area veterans

Updated: July 7, 2014 6:41AM



On June 6, 1944, 57,500 troops landed at Normandy, France, to participate in the invasion that would change the course of World War II.

One in 50 was killed.

Among the events aimed to recognize and honor the sacrifices of so many soldiers on the 70th anniversary of D-Day is a daylong commemoration at Cantigny Park.

On Saturday, the park’s First Division Museum will host “Cantigny Park Remembers D-Day.”

“This is an opportunity for families to come out and remember an amazing day and enjoy both their liberty and this space,” said Phil Zepeda, spokesman for the McCormick Foundation, which operates the Wheaton park.

Zepeda said members of the French Foreign Legion’s Chicago office also will be on hand for a brief ceremony during which sand from Normandy will be mixed with soil at the base of a statue. “It will show that veterans of foreign wars will always have a home at Cantigny,” he said.

Visitors can hear first-person accounts from veterans who took part in the invasion. Such opportunities are dwindling as the number of surviving WWII vets rapidly declines. Only 85 of the Illinois vets who participated in the invasion are still alive.

The daylong series of events will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Activities include:

A re-enactment of the training and tactics used to prepare the First Infantry Division for its assault on Omaha Beach.

A performance by The Legacy Girls, an Andrew Sisters musical revue. They’ll sing music from the 1940s.

A rare WWII landing craft (also known as a “Higgin’s boat” or LCVP) will be on display through Sunday. It is the earliest known surviving artifact of its kind and was likely used in the Allied invasion. On D-Day this type of landing craft carried soldiers of the Army’s “Big Red One” (the First Infantry Division) to Omaha Beach.

Young visitors are invited to make their own WWII landing craft and conduct a paratrooper assault using green army men at the stream in front of the museum.

Remote-controlled historic model tanks will demonstrate how Sherman tanks were used during the battles in Normandy.

The horticultural staff will conduct a demonstration on Victory Gardens.

Cantigny Park is at 1S151 S. Winfield Road, Wheaton. Visit www.cantignypark.org or call (630) 668-5161.



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