It all started with Steve. Steve Stebleton had been fascinated with the tanks, trucks and history of World War II for most of his youth. While he was part of a generation that followed, with his dad serving in the military just after the war finished his fascination with the era kept him interested as a young boy.
He can’t pin down why his fascination started, or why he continued with the interest throughout most of his life, but his interest ended up spreading to his brother, Doug Stebleton. Doug explained that his respect for veterans started in Glasgow.
“I remember seeing the (veterans) pictures on the wall (at the VFW) from all the wars; I was always impressed by them and respected them,” Doug said.
Both graduates from Glasgow High School probably never envisioned the ties they would make in Normandy. But this year they will be leaving for the sight of D-Day for the 70th anniversary since troops landed in France in June 1944.
The Normandy landings were a strategic move that took around a year of planing. It was the largest invasion by sea in history and contributed to the victory in war against German-occupied territory. June 6, 1944, went down in history for the bloody site, where soldiers fought against cemented bunkers and massive fire power.
The town of St. Mere Eglise became the first town liberated from the battles of Normandy. It was the scene of a famous back drop of old war movies. Doug took his first trip to the area around December 1998. It was winter and an off season, but he knew he wanted to come back. The love his brother had for the era caught on. His visit to Colleville, the cemetery that rests in Normandy, was something he never forgot.
Steve explained that he has traveled to Normandy two times before with his brother. He said that this year will probably be a big celebration as the veterans of that era may not be around for many more years. He explained that this may be one of the last times he visits Normandy.
“There will be celebrations on the beach, at Colleville Cemetery and all over the area,” Steve said.
He explained the several areas that will bring people, a memorial for the unknown soldiers and for those who were never found after the battle. Steve explained it as a sobering place where thousands of casualties took place.
“WWII was the biggest event in the world in the 20th century; it covered half of the globe,” Steve said.
Doug has gone back to Normandy nearly every year since 1998 and has made a lot of friends along the way. Doug took Steve with him to Normandy around 2001. During this time, the two visited areas where history was made. Doug became so involved he eventually finished a documentary, “Mother of Normandy,” about Madame Simone Renaud. She witnessed the day of the invasion with her husband, who was the mayor of St. Mere Eglise. She spent a lifetime tending to the graves of American soldiers and corresponding with their loved ones.
This documentary left an imprint in the town, and Doug has made many acquaintances since his film was released. The year, during the 70th celebration he’ll be releasing a 15-minute film about Ronald Reagan, the first U.S. president to visit Normandy back on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. The film will play in the Airborne Museum. Doug has spent time raising funds to expand the museum, and a wing will be complete in time for the anniversary to honor Reagan’s visit. The film will play four times each hour.
“It’s important to honor the vets and help the Airborne Museum,” Doug said.
Doug said that Reagan gave several famous speeches about the climb of the Army Rangers and gave the speech at the Colleville Cemetery. Steve will attend the celebration with about 50 others going to support the opening and celebrate with thousands of others on the big anniversary. Some of those going will be Michael Reagan, son of Ronald Reagan, and Jay Hoffman, the producer of the short film.