• A French child, dressed as an American World War II Soldier, stands tall June 6, 2014, while saluting the sands of Omaha Beach, France. The boy, never breaking composure, stood for more than two hours during a 1st Infantry Division ceremony that helped commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

    'Big Red One' commemorates D-Day at Omaha Beach

    A French child, dressed as an American World War II Soldier, stands tall June 6, 2014, while saluting the sands of Omaha Beach, France. The boy, never breaking composure, stood for more than two hours during a 1st Infantry Division ceremony that helped...

  • Retired Air Force Col. Arnold Gabriel, 89, an honorary conductor for the D-Day 70 Memorial Wind Band, leads players June 6, 2014, during a ceremony honoring the 1st Infantry Division, at the memorial site on Omaha Beach, France. Gabriel landed on the beaches of Normandy as an Army private during the first wave of the invasion.

    'Big Red One' commemorates D-Day at Omaha Beach

    Retired Air Force Col. Arnold Gabriel, 89, an honorary conductor for the D-Day 70 Memorial Wind Band, leads players June 6, 2014, during a ceremony honoring the 1st Infantry Division, at the memorial site on Omaha Beach, France. Gabriel landed on the...

  • Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, 1st Infantry Division senior enlisted adviser, talks about the "Big Red One" to his Soldiers, June 6, 2014, while standing on Omaha Beach, France. Soldiers from the Big Red One marched from Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer, France, to a monument during commemorative events for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The "Big Red One" Soldiers participated in three events to honor those brave men who stormed the beaches of Normandy.

    'Big Red One' commemorates D-Day at Omaha Beach

    Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, 1st Infantry Division senior enlisted adviser, talks about the "Big Red One" to his Soldiers, June 6, 2014, while standing on Omaha Beach, France. Soldiers from the Big Red One marched from Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer...

  • Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, 1st Infantry Division senior enlisted adviser, marches a formation of Soldiers to the 1st Inf. Div. memorial June 6 on Omaha Beach. Soldiers from the "Big Red One" marched from Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer, France, to a monument during commemorative events for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The "Big Red One" Soldiers participated in three events to honor those brave men who stormed the beaches of Normandy.

    'Big Red One' commemorates D-Day at Omaha Beach

    Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, 1st Infantry Division senior enlisted adviser, marches a formation of Soldiers to the 1st Inf. Div. memorial June 6 on Omaha Beach. Soldiers from the "Big Red One" marched from Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer, France, to a...

  • Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division march June 6, 2014, from Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer, France, to the edge of Omaha Beach, during commemorative events for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The "Big Red One" participated in three events June 6 to honor those brave men who stormed the beaches of Normandy.

    'Big Red One' commemorates D-Day at Omaha Beach

    Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division march June 6, 2014, from Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer, France, to the edge of Omaha Beach, during commemorative events for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The "Big Red One" participated in three events June...

  • Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division, along with many onlookers, honor those of the 467th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion, June 6, 2014, during a memorial commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The ceremony took place on a German pillbox where the monument was dedicated in 1994. The battalion suffered many casualties as its troops systematically neutralized the German bunkers defending the beach. Their actions gave the 1st Infantry Division relief as they continued to storm their objectives.

    'Big Red One' commemorates D-Day at Omaha Beach

    Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division, along with many onlookers, honor those of the 467th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion, June 6, 2014, during a memorial commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The ceremony took...

  • An Army bugler plays taps June 6, 2014, during a ceremony honoring those who served with the 834th Engineer Aviaion Battalion, at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. The event commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The site rests on an airstrip near Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer, France, that was one of the first to be operational shortly after the invasion. The first flight, which transported the wounded, touched down the evening of June 9, 1944.

    'Big Red One' commemorates D-Day at Omaha Beach

    An Army bugler plays taps June 6, 2014, during a ceremony honoring those who served with the 834th Engineer Aviaion Battalion, at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. The event commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The site rests on an...

  • Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, 1st Infantry Division senior enlisted adviser, and a French mayor lay flowers on the 834th Engineer Aviation Battalion, memorial, June 6, 2014, during a ceremony on a hilltop overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. The event commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The site rests on an airstrip near Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer, France, that was one of the first to be operational shortly after the invasion. The first flight, which transported the wounded, touched down the evening of June 9, 1944.

    'Big Red One' commemorates D-Day at Omaha Beach

    Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, 1st Infantry Division senior enlisted adviser, and a French mayor lay flowers on the 834th Engineer Aviation Battalion, memorial, June 6, 2014, during a ceremony on a hilltop overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy...

  • A French mayor speaks at a memorial ceremony for the 834th Engineer Aviation Battalion, June 6, 2014, on a hilltop overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. The event commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The site rests near on an airstrip near Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer, France, that was one of the first to be operational shortly after the invasion. The first flight, which transported the wounded, touched down the evening of June 9, 1944.

    'Big Red One' commemorates D-Day at Omaha Beach

    A French mayor speaks at a memorial ceremony for the 834th Engineer Aviation Battalion, June 6, 2014, on a hilltop overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. The event commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The site rests near on an...

  • Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, 1st Inf. Div. senior noncommissioned officer, and a French mayor lay flowers June 6 on the 1st Inf. Div. memorial at Omaha Beach, France. The event helped commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The site rests on an airstrip near Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer, France, that was one of the first to be operational shortly after the invasion.

    'Big Red One' commemorates D-Day at Omaha Beach

    Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, 1st Inf. Div. senior noncommissioned officer, and a French mayor lay flowers June 6 on the 1st Inf. Div. memorial at Omaha Beach, France. The event helped commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings...

OMAHA BEACH, France - More than 20 Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division helped commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day June 6 by participating in three ceremonies at Omaha Beach.

The historic day began at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, at an airstrip that was one of the first to be operational shortly after the D-Day invasion, which was June 6, 1944. The first flight, which transported the wounded, touched down the evening of June 9, 1944. The 834th Engineer Aviation Battalion constructed the airstrip in less than two days. The field quickly became a logistical hub for combat operations for the allied forces in the region.

Many of the passengers on those initial flights were Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division, known as the "Big Red One."

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, 1st Inf. Div. senior enlisted adviser, served as an honorary guest at an airstrip ceremony Friday, laying flowers to pay homage to those who died trying to build the strip.

Shortly afterward, a formation of 1st Inf. Div. Soldiers marched down the bluffs, singing cadence on the way to their next destination. As they passed the bluffs, they were in full view of the beachhead.

"It's just shocking," said Sgt. Tami VanZandt, a geospatial intelligence non-commissioned officer, Special Troops Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div. "You really see what advantages (the German defenders) had on us at the time."

The Soldiers soon arrived at the 467th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion memorial and paid their respects with flowers and the playing of taps. The ceremony took place on a German pillbox where the monument was dedicated in 1994. The battalion suffered many casualties as they systematically neutralized the German bunkers defending the beach. Their actions gave 1st Inf. Div. Soldiers relief as they continued to storm their objectives on D-Day.

The Big Red One Soldiers in France for the 70th anniversary next marched along the waters of Normandy to the 1st Inf. Div. and 29th Infantry Division memorial on Omaha Beach. The site marked where each unit's area of responsibility met during the invasion. Grinston again served as the honorary guest and flowers were placed upon the historical marker.

He was joined by another special guest, retired Air Force Col. Arnold Gabriel, 89, an honorary conductor for the D-Day 70 Memorial Wind Band. He led the band as its members played more than eight songs during the ceremony. On D-Day, Gabriel was an Army private who landed with the 29th Inf. Div. in the first wave. He returned for the first time 70 years later.

"Somebody asked me what it was like on D-Day," Gabriel said. "It is one of those things that is indescribable. You can watch a lot of movies, but they'll never be able to capture the real chaos that really happened."

For his bravery and actions, local French leaders awarded him with a French Musical Doctorate.

Soldiers of the 1st Inf. Div. focused their commemoration efforts across Omaha Beach, as other U.S. Army units attended the ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

Page last updated Sun June 8th, 2014 at 00:00