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Some soldiers have already departed for the battlefield. Others are leaving soon for what promises to be a memorable assignment.

More than 1,300 U.S. soldiers, most of whom are with the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade from Giebelstadt, Germany, are assembling on the northern coast of France for the upcoming ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

“I feel very honored,” said Sgt. Jamie Worley, a brigade intelligence analyst. Helping to commemorate such a historic event — when some 156,000 troops from the United States, Britain and Canada crossed the English Channel and landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944 — “means a lot, being in the Army, especially now with what is going on in Iraq.”

The soldiers are providing logistical and other support for several U.S.-sponsored events marking the invasion, a key turning point in the defeat of Nazi Germany. Sailors, Marines and Air Force personnel will also be involved to a lesser extent.

“Every little village and population center [in Normandy] is having some event in connection with D-Day,” said Ken MacNevin, a spokesman for U.S. Army Europe who is helping coordinate USAREUR’s contributions.

On one Normandy Web site, the list of events for June 5-6 runs 16 pages. All sorts of events are featured, from wreath-layings and badge ceremonies to fireworks and displays of vintage military vehicles.

Many events are local affairs geared to veterans of particular countries and units that liberated a certain area or town. There are dinners, concerts, exhibitions and street banquets.

Hundreds of troops will provide security, as well as the muscle to help set up tents, stages and seating areas. Some will serve as an honor guard or perform as a member of one of the military bands.

“Everyone is excited,” said Pfc. Michael Taylor, a brigade spokesman. “We are proud to have been chosen. [The anniversary] will give us a chance to show that we can step up, even though we are a small brigade.”

About 80 soldiers based in Italy also plan to drop by.

On June 5, a parachute jump featuring 600 Army paratroops and Rangers is scheduled for Ste.-Mère-Église, the first French town liberated on D-Day. Paratroops from the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions, which took part in the drop 60 years ago, will participate in the re-enactment. Nearly 80 troops from the Southern European Task Force, Vicenza, Italy, are slated to jump, too.

Foremost on everyone’s mind, Taylor said, is making sure D-Day veterans enjoy their visit. Thousand are expected — one report has 10,000 coming from Britain alone — and with the youngest of them now in their late 70s, the veterans know this may well be their last trip to this sandy stretch of beach that forever defined their lives.

“We want to give them a memorable event,” Taylor said.

More than 3,500 journalists are also expected.

The main international ceremony at Arromanches is expected to draw at least 16 heads of state or government. The list includes President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin. For the first time, Germany’s chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, will attend.

With so many dignitaries and veterans congregating in one place, security will be especially tight. At the 50th anniversary in 1994, French authorities sealed off sections of Normandy well before sunrise. Special passes were required just to move between sites, and local residents weren’t spared.

The war in Iraq, threats of terrorism and the long list of dignitaries will make this anniversary a challenge for security personnel.

Worley said she and other intelligence personnel will be on hand to collect, analyze and disseminate information concerning “any kind of terrorism issues or suspicious activities.”

The 22-year-old Missouri native will also join other soldiers in a mass re-enlistment ceremony scheduled to occur during the parachute drop. She is re-enlisting for another four-year hitch.

“I don’t think I could have picked a better situation or a better location to re-enlist,” Worley said. The anniversary at Normandy “is the top of the top.”

Major D-Day anniversary events ...

The official Web site of Normandy events marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day is www.normandiememoire.com. It is in both French and English.

The Web site lists events, exhibits, musical presentations, local ceremonies and fireworks displays from Jan. 1 through Dec. 4 of this year. Most of the major ceremonies are Friday and Saturday — June 5 and 6, the day of the invasion — but there is plenty going on throughout June, July and August.

Following is a list of the major events planned for Americans:

June 5

Ste.-Mère-Église — U.S. and French paratroops will conduct a joint parachute drop at about 2 p.m. in a field a mile outside of town. A ceremony for veterans and parachutists at “Iron Mike Memorial” will follow.

June 6

U.S.-French ceremony at Omaha Beach from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Ceremony and dedication at 1 p.m. to commemorate the heroic assault of the 100-foot cliffs at Pointe du Hoc by members of the Army’s 2nd Ranger Battalion.

Multinational ceremony 3:30-5 p.m. at Arromanches in the British sector. This will be attended by the heads of state.

U.S. ceremony at Utah Beach at 5:45 p.m.

— Kevin Dougherty

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