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Vets gather in Normandy for 69th anniversary of D-Day

June 6, 2013 at 12:28 PM

LONDON, June 6 (UPI) -- Hundreds of military veterans gathered on the beaches of Normandy for the 69th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion that led to the end of World War II.

A series of events were planned at cemeteries and villages liberated after 150,000 soldiers waded ashore June 6, 1944, the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

About 2,500 soldiers died during the landing.

Among those observing the commemoration are 264 veterans who fought in the Normandy campaign. Their trips were paid for by the "Heroes Return" program financed by Britain's Big Lottery Fund.

Veterans from the eastern English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk brought with them the remains of Ernest Mears, who dug trenches at the landing sites and built shelters while under fire.

Mears, who was with the Pioneer Corps, is to be interred at a Commonwealth War Grave cemetery near where he landed.

Jack Woods, who served with the 9th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment -- and who accompanied Mears' ashes to France -- said Mears was typical of the men who went to war "simply to do their duty."

Woods hoped to re-inter his fellow vet next year at Bayeux Cathedral during the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

"There should be one ordinary guy similar to the unknown warrior to represent them," he said.

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