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‘I got really scared’: Army Heritage Days remembers D-Day soldiers on 75th Anniversary

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Army Heritage Days celebrated nearly 250 years of American history over the weekend, but the spotlight was shining on just one day.

Granted, it wasn’t just any day. According to lecturer John Kennard, whose father participated in the D-Day landing at Normandy, France during World War II, June 6, 1944 might have been the most pivotal day of the 20th Century.

“On that day — D-Day — they carried the hope of the free world on their shoulders,” Kennard said.

Kennard recently released a book based on the unpublished letters of his father, Frank L. Kennard, who learned the terror of war first-hand when his platoon in the 2nd Ranger Battalion lost half its men in a successful effort to seize German artillery guns on the high ground of Pointe du Hoc, overlooking the Normandy beaches.

Because of exemplary Ranger training, Frank Kennard felt confident going into the battle, his son said. Then, the reality of war hit.

“When we got close, I got really scared,” Frank Kennard admitted in a letter.

John Kennard’s harrowing description of the fight from the beaches of Normandy to Pointe du Hoc was just one of the U.S. Army Heritage Education Center’s no-holds-barred effort to remember D-Day shortly before its 75th Anniversary.

The event also featured a flyover by World War II aircraft and a demonstration of equipment and uniforms used by D-Day soldiers during a program narrated by World War II historians. There was an extensive display of equipment and memorabilia from World War II airborne and paratrooper units.

“We’re just happy to be here to tell a story that needs to be told,” said Jared Frederick, a history instructor at Penn State Altoona and reenactor with the 4th Infantry Division.

Army Heritage Days is a popular and free annual event at the Army Heritage Education Center off Soldiers Drive in Middlesex Township that draws thousands for reenactments, presentations, exhibits and displays from various periods of American military history, including the Revolutionary, Civil and Vietnam wars.

Emmaus, Pennsylvania resident Chris Weiss, who served in the Pennsylvania National Guard from 1980 to 2001 and was deployed in Operation Desert Storm during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, said he’s glad people are taking the opportunity to learn about military culture and American history.

Army Heritage Days also featured a display of paper models of airplanes and other military equipment. Trudy and Jon Seip of Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania organized an effort to send letters to soldiers for the tenth consecutive year.

“They always are very appreciative (of the letters),” Trudy Seip said.

“On that day – D-Day – they carried the hope of the free world on their shoulders.”—John Kennard

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Daniel Walmer covers public safety for The Sentinel. You can reach him by email at dwalmer@cumberlink.com or by phone at 717-218-0021.

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