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Special D-Day event comes to area at end of August

Ned Jilton II • Aug 21, 2019 at 1:31 PM

It’s always fun to get away from the computer and get out to learn some history first hand. That’s why I take a week’s vacation every year to go on one of the American Battlefield Trust events.

But you don’t have to travel far to enjoy experiencing history. At the end of this month there will be a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself into World War II right here in the Tri-Cities.

The living history group known as A Walk in Their Boots normally honors the military and educates the public through multiple era encampments that combine everything from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, the Civil War and on up through to the present day.

However, this year is the 75th anniversary of one of the pivotal moments in world history — Operation Overlord, or D-Day as many people know it. To mark this occasion, A Walk in Their Boots will stage a special presentation at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park in Elizabethton on Aug. 31.

Called “D-Day 75th Anniversary” the living history event will recreate many aspects, both military and civilian, with a focus upon what happened in the region at that time as well as the American soldier as he landed on the beaches of Normandy, June 6, 1944, as part of Operation Overlord.

Jeffery Campbell, chairman of the Walk in Their Boots committee, took part in the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landing held in France this year.

“We, as the A Walk in Their Boots committee, wanted to have a local event that paid tribute to the men and women of the Northeast Tennessee region and recognize the service and sacrifice of what is often referred to as our ‘Greatest Generation.’As for me personally, commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings was especially important since I had the great honor of participating in one of the D-Day reenactments in Normandy, France this year.” Campbell said. “It was quite an unbelievable experience to reenact on the actual site of the former German Coastal Battery (Crisbecq Battery) overlooking Utah Beach. To look out over the same landscape and follow in their footsteps was quite surreal.”

“I hope with this event we can share some of that same feeling of walking in the boots of those who participated in this great endeavor that forever altered the course of history and dramatically changed the lives of not only those who lived in their time, but ours as well” he added.

According to Campbell this event will offer the visitor the chance to “step back in time” and view the lives of soldiers and civilians alike thru artifacts, stories, photos, personal belongings and more. The event will offer many military and civilian displays such as a D-Day overview, Milligan College–V12 program, Cadet Nurse Corps, Rayon production at Elizabethton’s Bemberg plant, American Red Cross in WWII, Kingsport’s Holston Ordinance’s development of RDX and Women in Aviation just to name a few.

In addition to the many exhibits there will be a living history portrayal of WWII soldiers of both Allied and Axis forces from the European theater. This should make for some really good photo opportunities.

The even runs from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. on Labor Day Weekend, Saturday, Aug. 31, and is free and open to the public.

A Walk in Their Boots is slated to return to their normal, multi-era, format with a program scheduled for Tipton Haynes State Historic Site in Johnson City on Nov. 9-10 with a student education day on Friday, Nov. 8.

Ned Jilton II is a page designer and photographer for the Times News as well as the writer of the “Marching with the 19th” Civil War series. You can contact him at njilton@timesnews.net.

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