Local News

Friday, Jun 06 2014 02:11 PM

D-Day ceremony honors local survivors

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    "There is very few of us left," Ernest Roberts, right, tells John Grenek after the ceremony at the Kern Veterans Memorial Plaza on Truxtun Avenue to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy. They are two of eight men who were honored for their military service during the great invasion, which led to the defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of Europe during World War II.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Invasion of Normandy veterans and others attending the Kern County Veterans Service Department and Honor Flight Kern County sponsored ceremony at the Kern Veterans Memorial Plaza on Truxtun Avenue salute as a wreath is placed to honor the veterans and commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy, which led to the defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of Europe.

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  3. 3 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    California State Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, shares a moment with Normandy invasion veteran Keith Bratton, one of eight invasion veterans who were honored Friday during the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Invasion of Normandy veteran Paul Gerig is presented the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy medal by Col. Fred Drew at a ceremony to commemorate the D-Day landing, which led to the defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of Europe. At left is California State Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, and second from right is Dick Taylor with the Kern County Veterans Service Department.

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  5. 5 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Veterans and others attend the Kern County Veterans Service Department and Honor Flight Kern County sponsored ceremony at the Kern Veterans Memorial Plaza on Truxtun Avenue to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy that led to the defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of Europe.

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  6. 6 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Medals were presented to local invasion of Normandy veterans during the Kern County Veterans Service Department and Honor Flight Kern County sponsored ceremony at the Kern Veterans Memorial Plaza on Truxtun Avenue to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy.

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  7. 7 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Paul Gerig's eyes fill with tears as the invasion of Normandy veteran participate in a ceremony at the Kern Veterans Memorial Plaza to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy. He and seven other local men who were part of the invasion force which led to the defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of Europe were recognized and honored for their military service.

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  8. 8 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Bob Otto plays taps at a ceremony at the Kern Veterans Memorial Plaza to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy.

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  9. 9 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    People gather at the Kern Veterans Memorial Plaza on Truxtun Avenue to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy.

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  10. 10 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Col. Fred Drew shakes the hand of John Grenek after presenting him a medal to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy. Seven other local veterans who were part of the invasion force at Normandy were also honored.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The colors are presented to begin a ceremony at the Kern Veterans Memorial Plaza to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy that led to the defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of Europe.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Rick Zanutto escorts Normandy invasion veteran John Grenek after a ceremony to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy. Grenek and seven other local men who were part of the invasion force were recognized and honored Friday. Zanutto's son, Adam O. Zanutto, was killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2006.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Normandy invasion veterans front, Lee Neukirchner, John Grenek, Paul Gerig, William Gloeckler, Keith Bratton, Robert Heinley, not pictured, Ernest T. Roberts, back row 4th from left, and Willis Shepard, back row 5th from left, pose for a photograph at the ceremony to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy. The ceremony was held at the Kern Veterans Memorial Plaza on Truxtun Avenue in Bakersfield and sponsored by Kern County Veterans Service Department and Honor Flight Kern County.

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  14. 14 of 14

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Charlie Wilmot, left, gives a big handshake and thank you to Normandy invasion veteran William Gloeckler.

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BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer slevin@bakersfield.com

Some could not stand. Some could not hear. But each one of the eight D-Day veterans at a commemoration ceremony Friday at the Kern Veterans Memorial Plaza was a reminder of that pivotal day 70 years ago.

Honored for their service by the Kern County Veterans Services Department and Honor Flight Kern County, the D-Day vets -- a ninth was in Normandy itself Friday -- were feted by politicians, applauded by civilians and saluted by fellow veterans from four other wars.

Lili Marsh, local coordinator of Honor Flights to Washington, D.C., that have taken nearly 400 veterans to visit memorials, called the ceremony part of "a day of contradiction."

The gathering honored eight of the estimated 160,000 who participated in D-Day on June 6, 1944. But it also mourned the more than 4,400 Allied troops killed that day.

"You are heroes," Marsh told the vets and a crowd of about 75. "You are men among men.

"You saved the world and you changed the course of history."

While none of the vets addressed the crowd Friday, their presence spoke loudly. Children, their parents and veterans lined up to shake their hands and thank them for their service.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, presented the D-Day vets with certificates of recognition from the state Assembly, and a representative of Congressman Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, distributed certificates of "Special Congressional Recognition."

The flag was presented, the national anthem sung, a wreath was laid at the plaza and taps were played.

Joe Paul Park, 71, a Navy veteran of Vietnam, said there was "a special brotherhood" among vets.

He attended to support those "who went to Europe and to prevent the Axis from bringing their evil across the Atlantic Ocean to our shores."

The eight D-Day vets present were Lee Neukirchner, Robert Heinley, John Grenek, Keith Bratton, Willis Shepard, William Gloeckler, E.T. Roberts and Paul Gerig.

The ninth, in France Friday, is Henry Oschner.

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