Rotary Club of Western Forsyth, Mi Pueblo commemorates D-Day 80th anniversary

Published 12:05 am Thursday, June 13, 2024

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By Owen Fender

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — Diving deeper into the summer months, a season of patriotism seems all around. Americans honored the fallen men and women of the United States military in late May and will soon be celebrating the 4th of July. Last Thursday was another day filled with patriotism as it marked the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

One event meant to honor those brave soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy during WWII took place in Clemmons thanks to a collaboration between the Rotary Club of West Forsyth and Mi Pueblo.

Mi Pueblo hosted the rotary club event at noon on Thursday and paid for the meals of all veterans in attendance.
The event was a success. The restaurant buzzed with activity as veterans from all service branches, including multiple Green Berets and at least one Navy Seal, ate their meals together at large tables.

One veteran, Vern Cooper, served in WWII, and when asked how the average American should honor D-Day, he said they should “take their hats off and thank the guys who helped protect America and freedom.”

At noon, Gene Blackwelder of the West Forsyth Rotary Club opened the event and the restaurant sang the national anthem and participated in a group prayer.

The event’s main attraction began as Blackwelder introduced John Blust, a veteran who served in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army.

Blust’s presentation focused on the logistical and military challenges the Allies overcame to make the invasion of Normandy successful. He expressed that we often remember and celebrate D-Day as a single day. However, the invasion only took place thanks to months of preparation. For example, Blust explained how the British Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Corp took months to fight the German Luftwaffe away from the beaches so that German planes couldn’t strafe the beaches with gunfire on the day of the invasion. He also explained a military operation named Operation Fortitude in which the Allied forces used fake tanks, planes, military bases and military correspondences to trick the Germans into thinking the invasion was to take place elsewhere along the French coast.

Blust explained that the operation was vital to the success of the Normandy Invasion because the Germans left Normandy less reinforced thanks to the deception. Without Operation Fortitude, there is a chance the invasion would have failed.

Blust appeared well-informed about the D-Day operations, and his presentation was detailed and featured maps of the Normandy beaches. He explained to the audience how the Allies invaded five beaches: Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword. He even touched on the unique challenges facing soldiers as they attempted to advance on each beach. One aspect of the invasion that Blust mentioned was critical to the Allies’ success was the work done by paratrooper divisions. On the day of the invasion, paratroopers, including the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions of the U.S. Army, landed behind enemy lines to capture and secure critical roads and bridges to stop German reinforcements from reaching the beaches.

Blust said that while he was not a veteran of WWII, one of the greatest honors of his life was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division because of their storied history during the D-Day invasion. He repeatedly stated how he couldn’t imagine the “courage it takes to jump into darkness knowing the people below you want to kill you.”

Outside of his presentation, Blust expressed how important it is for us to remember D-Day and how he was truly honored to be invited to speak to a room full of fellow veterans. When speaking about the veterans in attendance, he said, “We owe them a duty to keep this nation free long into the future,” and described freedom as a relay race where each generation must take the baton from the previous generation and pass it to the next.

Although June 6 has come and gone, and the season of patriotism will eventually give way to the fall holidays, Americans are encouraged never to forget the veterans who have protected and paid for the nation’s freedom. In the words of John F. Kennedy “The cost of freedom is high, but Americans have always paid it.”