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Tampa Bay organizations commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy

Hundreds of white crosses in a cemetery. Trees dot the landscape.
Thibault Camus
This photo taken on Wednesday, April 10, 2024, shows crosses of the US cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy. A pair of Tampa Bay area organizations will be among those taking part in commemoration ceremonies of the 80th anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 2024.

A number of Tampa Bay area groups are taking part in the 80th anniversary commemorations of D-Day in France.

June 6, 1944 marks the 80th anniversary of one of the turning points of World War II and the largest seaborne invasion in history — D-Day.

And two groups from the greater Tampa Bay region have traveled to France to be a part of the global commemoration.

TheClearwater Composite Squadron Civil Air Patrol was selected as the official Civil Air Patrol Color Guard for the 2024 commemoration ceremony in Normandy, France.

"You see the cemeteries,” said Anthony Young, first lieutenant of the Squadron. “You see just how great the loss of life was to defend our freedom.”

The group consists of both cadets and senior members who volunteer in the program.

A group of people, mostly young, pose for a photo. Many are re smiling and carrying backpacks.
Clearwater Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol
Members of the Clearwater Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol pose for a photo in an airport. They are in France to take part in the 80th anniversary commemoration of D-Day, June 6, 1944.

In addition, the Choral Artists of Sarasota are also in France to take part in commemoration events across the country.

“There's an emotional factor that we just can't even comprehend at this point,” said Joseph Holt, the organization’s artistic director. “But I think everyone who's singing in this group is certainly very excited, very honored, very humbled to be a part of these ceremonies."

The choir’s itinerary includes official commemoration ceremonies at the Normandy and Brittany American Cemeteries, followed by performances in the first liberated town of Sainte-Mère-Église and a concert in Paris at the La Madeleine church.

“These are official ceremonies observing the 80th anniversary of D-Day,” said Danielle La Senna, who is the organization’s executive director. “So that’s where it’s most significant.”

The choir will also have a featured moment during the laying of a wreath at anniversary ceremonies on June 6.

“I think the laying of the wreath is a really important thing,” La Senna said. “When they lay the wreath, it is just our group that is singing.”

While the visits in and of themselves are impactful, what stands out to many of the travelers is the somber reminder of family and friends who served in the military in World War II and the decades that have followed.

"For them, it's very personal to be here,” Holt said. “And to witness firsthand these extraordinarily poignant ceremonies that we're about to experience."

Tyler Luginski is a WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for the summer of 2024.