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Veterans remain heart of D-Day

Star Beacon - 8/11/2018

Aug. 11--CONNEAUT -- Despite dwindling numbers, World War II veterans remain the backbone of the annual D-Day Conneaut observance at Township Park on Aug. 17-18, officials said.

As of late July, 104 WWII-era vets were slated to attend next weekend's Big Show at Township Park, said Eric Montgomery, the event's veterans coordinator. That number, as it stands, is down from the 147 who made the trip in 2017, he said.

Attendance could rebound once Montgomery hears from all the senior facilities where invitations were extended, Montgomery said.

"The response is a little less than the previous year, but we're still waiting on some senior centers," he said.

Despite the dip in attendance, the assembly will still represent "the largest gathering of World War II veterans in the world," Montgomery said. Organizers have emphasized D-Day Conneaut is in large part designed as a tribute to military veterans.

"They're the reason why we're doing what we're doing," Montgomery said.

The event added a special veterans component in 2011, and Montgomery has been at the helm since the beginning. The format used in previous years will be repeated in 2018: veterans will be treated to lunch on Friday, receive special seating to the big battle re-enactment on Aug. 18 and be given the chance to discuss their military service and answer questions from the audience.

Programs showcasing veterans will be 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Friday and 12:45 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 18) at the Veterans Hospitality tent adjacent to the Allied campgrounds at Township Park.

Korea War veterans also have a place of honor at the event, and 40 of them had signed up to attend as of late July. That's down from the 93 Korea veterans present in 2017, Montgomery said.

On Saturday, four World War II veterans will receive the Legion of Honor from French government representatives. Minutes earlier, Allied re-enactors will march past the honorees in tribute.

This year's Legion awardees are Andrew Piccuta of New Castle, Pennsylvania; George Foradas of Canton; James Debth of Temperance, Michigan; and John Davis of Plymouth, Indiana. All four are expected to attend, Montgomery said.

In addition to French officials, local leaders will be present at the ceremony. State Rep. John Patterson will speak and Conneaut City Manager James Hockaday will attend, according to a tentative schedule.

The four are also slated to receive a proclamation from his home congressional or state district, Montgomery said.

Arrangements are being made to broadcast the ceremony in a streaming format, he said.

D-Day Conneaut organizers strive to make the weekend as special as possible for veterans.

"They are treated with as much respect as we can give them," Montgomery said.

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(c)2018 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio)

Visit the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio) at www.starbeacon.com

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