By Spc. Elizabeth Johnson
Utah National Guard
This year’s Military Ball was held at The Grand America Hotel, June 8, 2019, commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the U.S. Army's 244th birthday.
On June 6, 1944, naval vessels traveled from English ports to assault the beaches on Normandy, France, where the German army had taken control. Three thousand landing craft, 2,500 ships, and 822 aircraft carried troops to Normandy to begin the liberation of Europe.
"That was the beginning--you might say the beginning of the end of the German Army,” said retired Army Maj. Byron Lemmon, WWII veteran and two-time Purple Heart recipient. “We knew then that the end was gonna be there, but it was gonna be a hard time before we got there."
Now, 75 years later, Utah service members from all branches of the military were invited to come together to commemorate the heroic sacrifices of those who fought in Europe. More than 600 military members signed up to attend the ball, filling every available seat. Large screens on either side of the main ballroom flickered with historic video clips of that day. The room went silent as people turned to watch the images and listen to the history. Lemmon, veteran of the North African, Italian, and French campaigns watched the screen intently.
"I think it is important we never forget the sacrifices we made as a nation and the people that wear the uniform for the greater good," said retired Army Col. Dawn Flynn, Army Reserve ambassador for the state of Utah. "A lot of people went into D-Day knowing they probably weren't going to survive, but they still went ahead and did it anyways for their brothers-in-arms and for the United States as a nation; for freedom."
Larry Kristkowiak, the head coach of the University of Utah’s men’s basketball team was the guest speaker and was visibly moved by the event and opportunity to share his experiences as a coach and admirer of the military.
Following the program, attendees were invited to the floor to dance the rest of the night away to the music of a live band, Article 15, made up of members of the Utah National Guard’s 23rd Army Band.
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