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updated: 6/7/2014 6:48 PM

D-Day veterans honored at Cantigny Park ceremony

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  • Eric Percy, right, with the Living History Detachment of the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, explains ammunition carried by World War II D-Day troops to brothers Jim, left, and John Rudins of Lombard during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day Saturday.

       Eric Percy, right, with the Living History Detachment of the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, explains ammunition carried by World War II D-Day troops to brothers Jim, left, and John Rudins of Lombard during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day Saturday.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

  • James Reid of Oak Brook, center, stands poised to receive the French Legion of Honor medal Saturday during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. He is flanked by David Hiller, left, CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Cantigny, and Paul Herbert, director of the First Division Museum at Cantigny.

       James Reid of Oak Brook, center, stands poised to receive the French Legion of Honor medal Saturday during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. He is flanked by David Hiller, left, CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Cantigny, and Paul Herbert, director of the First Division Museum at Cantigny.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

  • James Reid of Oak Brook, center, receives the French Legion of Honor medal Saturday from Graham Paul, consul general of France to Chicago, during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. To his right stands Paul Herbert, director of the First Division Museum at Cantigny.

       James Reid of Oak Brook, center, receives the French Legion of Honor medal Saturday from Graham Paul, consul general of France to Chicago, during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. To his right stands Paul Herbert, director of the First Division Museum at Cantigny.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

  • From left, David Hiller, CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Cantigny Park, James Reid of Oak Brook, recipient of the French Legion of Honor medal, Paul Herbert, director of the First Division Museum at Cantigny, and Graham Paul, consul general of France to Chicago, during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

       From left, David Hiller, CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Cantigny Park, James Reid of Oak Brook, recipient of the French Legion of Honor medal, Paul Herbert, director of the First Division Museum at Cantigny, and Graham Paul, consul general of France to Chicago, during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

  • James Reid of Oak Brook, center, received the French Legion of Honor medal Saturday from Graham Paul, consul general of France to Chicago, during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

       James Reid of Oak Brook, center, received the French Legion of Honor medal Saturday from Graham Paul, consul general of France to Chicago, during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

  • James Reid, 89, of Oak Brook, received the French Legion of Honor medal Saturday during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. A family friend's children, from left, Jonah, Olivia and Grace Swift of Huntley, made this poster in his honor.

       James Reid, 89, of Oak Brook, received the French Legion of Honor medal Saturday during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. A family friend's children, from left, Jonah, Olivia and Grace Swift of Huntley, made this poster in his honor.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

  • James Reid, 89, of Oak Brook, received the French Legion of Honor medal Saturday during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. A family friend's children, from left, Jonah, Olivia and Grace Swift of Huntley, made this poster in his honor.

       James Reid, 89, of Oak Brook, received the French Legion of Honor medal Saturday during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. A family friend's children, from left, Jonah, Olivia and Grace Swift of Huntley, made this poster in his honor.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

  • Aaron Conklin, 31, of Plainfield with the Living History Detachment of the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park takes a break to watch his 8-month-old daughter, Carla. Conklin is dressed as a World War II 1st Infantry Division soldier demonstrating what first wave troops wore when they landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day.

       Aaron Conklin, 31, of Plainfield with the Living History Detachment of the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park takes a break to watch his 8-month-old daughter, Carla. Conklin is dressed as a World War II 1st Infantry Division soldier demonstrating what first wave troops wore when they landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

  • Bill Shanklin, 70, of Elmhurst, and Ruth Valentino, 70, of Elk Grove Village, discuss the D-Day casualties when entire platoons of soldiers disembarked from boats onto the beaches of Normandy, France, during World War II. "They were sitting ducks," Shanklin said.

       Bill Shanklin, 70, of Elmhurst, and Ruth Valentino, 70, of Elk Grove Village, discuss the D-Day casualties when entire platoons of soldiers disembarked from boats onto the beaches of Normandy, France, during World War II. "They were sitting ducks," Shanklin said.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

  • Kevin Oleniczak of Wheaton and wife, Sheryl, in the background, read up on war history Saturday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Dozens of visitors, including many World War II veterans, marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France, Saturday at the park.

       Kevin Oleniczak of Wheaton and wife, Sheryl, in the background, read up on war history Saturday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Dozens of visitors, including many World War II veterans, marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France, Saturday at the park.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

  • From left, William Hughes, 6, of Chicago, and brothers Cole, 5, and Miles Heerema, 4, of Oakbrook Terrace, climb up a tank Saturday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton where visitors marked the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France during World War II.

       From left, William Hughes, 6, of Chicago, and brothers Cole, 5, and Miles Heerema, 4, of Oakbrook Terrace, climb up a tank Saturday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton where visitors marked the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France during World War II.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

  • From left, William Hughes, 6, of Chicago, and brothers Cole, 5, and Miles Heerema, 4, of Oakbrook Terrace, sit atop a tank Saturday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton where visitors marked the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France during World War II.

       From left, William Hughes, 6, of Chicago, and brothers Cole, 5, and Miles Heerema, 4, of Oakbrook Terrace, sit atop a tank Saturday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton where visitors marked the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France during World War II.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

  • Children climb onto a tank Saturday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton where visitors marked the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France during World War II.

       Children climb onto a tank Saturday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton where visitors marked the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France during World War II.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

  • World War II veterans sit in the first row during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France, Saturday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

       World War II veterans sit in the first row during the 70th anniversary commemoration of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France, Saturday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.
    MADHU KRISHNAMURTHY | Staff Photographer

 
 

Dozens of veterans, their families and friends on marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France on June 6, 1944, Saturday at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

Brothers John and Jim Rudins of Lombard attended to honor the memory of their father, a World War II veteran who wasn't among D-Day troops but served as a radar detection technician in China, what was then Burma, and India.

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"He served and defended his country, and he taught us those values … which is why all of us are here today, free and able to talk," said John Ruddins, 63.

More than 160,000 Allied troops landed along that 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline on D-Day. The loss of lives was high, with more than 9,000 Allied soldiers killed or wounded.

Roughly 20 surviving World War II and D-Day veterans from the Chicago area were honored during the ceremony.

The 1st Infantry Division played a big part in the D-Day incursion, leading the assault on Omaha Beach where some of the hardest fighting of the war took place, said Paul Herbert, executive director of the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park. Museum employees visited Normandy, France, last year and brought back sand from Omaha Beach, one of five beaches that served as theaters for the Allied incursion. The sand was buried at the base of a half-scale replica of a monument at the U.S. Cemetery at Normandy where more than 9,000 American service members are buried, Herbert said.

Today, there are more than 1 million surviving World War II veterans nationwide, and more than 36,000 in Illinois.

Graham Paul, the consul general of France to Chicago, said his nation would never forget what it owes America and its veterans.

"Let's never forget that the United States and France owe each other their very existence as free nations … our two countries have always stood shoulder-to-shoulder to defend and promote the values of freedom and democracy that are the core of who we are," he said. "Thank you for what you've done."

Paul awarded the French Legion of Honor medal to James W. Reid, who was among the wave of troops that landed on Utah Beach June 7, 1944.

"He endured some of the most horrific fighting of the war," Paul said. "Mr. Reid, 70 years ago, you were ready to sacrifice your young life for our freedom … for a country that was not even yours. Now it is. It is the highest that my country can bestow upon those who have achieved remarkable deeds for France."

Reid was 18 years old when he joined the military and served as a private first class in the 344th Infantry Regiment of the 90th Infantry Division. In September 1944, he was wounded by machine gun fire in Thionville in the Lorraine region of France, but fought his way across Western Europe until May 5, 1945. Reid also has been awarded the Purple Heart and many other medals.

"I feel very honored in receiving the French Legion of Honor medal," said Reid, 89, of Oak Brook. "So many men deserve it more that will never see the light of day."

Reid said he is happy to see the sacrifices of so many friends lost in the conflict being recognized.

"It was a wonderful celebration to dedicate to D-Day," he said. "It's a contribution to all those deceased."

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