D-Day Marked in Unusual Year 06/06 09:44
An Englishman living in France is laying D-Day wreathes for families in this
year of little plane travel.
BENOUVILLE, France (AP) -- The essence of war remembrance is to make sure
the fallen are never forgotten. All it takes is a wreath, a tiny wooden cross,
a little token on a faraway grave to show that people still care about their
fallen hero, parent or grandparent.
This year, though, the pandemic stepped in, barring all travel for families
to visit the World War II graves in France's Normandy, where Saturday marks the
76th anniversary of the epic D-Day battle, when allied troops successfully
stormed the beaches and turned the war against the Nazis.
So anguished families turned to the next best thing -- an Englishman living
on D-day territory, a pensioner with a big heart and a small hole in his agenda.
For years, Steven Oldrid, 66, had helped out with D-Day events around the
beaches where British soldiers had landed --- and often left their lives behind
-- be it organizing parking, getting pipers to show or getting sponsors for
Laying wreaths though, seemed something special, reserved for families and
close friends only.
But in pandemic times, pandemic rules apply. Oldrid was first contacted in
"I was actually choked up when I got the first request," Oldrid said. "I'm
always on the other side. Always in the background," he said.
"They asked Steven, can you lay our wreath? Well, they sent me five, and
then another one said, Can you lay one for my granddad? Can you lay one for my
Before he knew, it in this extraordinary year, he had become the
extraordinary wreathlayer -- proof that kindness cannot be counted in pounds,
euros or dollars, but in time and effort to organize a day around the wishes of
As June 6 approached, the boxes of wreaths and grave markers piled up in his
garage. And to soothe the nerves of families, he has also been filming live for
Facebook several ceremonies and wreathlayings.
Among those struggling with not being able to go to Normandy this year was
Jane Barkway-Harney of the British veteran Glider Pilot Regiment Society, whose
father participated in the D-day landings.
"It makes me feel physically sick because you feel as though you're letting
everybody down," she said. "I feel so strongly that it is our right and our
duty to go."
Still, whatever Oldrid is asked "I know he'll say yes because he actually
doesn't know the word no. It is not in his vocabulary," said Barkway-Harney.
Through it all, he keeps a smile.
"It's not ever, never will be a burden, he said "It's a pleasure and an
What does he get in return? On the internet it is "Thank you, Steve. A big
hearts and thumbs up," he said.
And from his previous work helping out families and friends of veterans, he
knows something else is coming too.
"They do actually bring me some English products like teabags and salad
cream, baked beans and crisps for the kids."