Seventy-five years to the day since Allied troops landed on the coast of Normandy, Yellowknife’s military community, students and residents gathered under grey skies to remember those who fought on D-Day.

On June 6, 1944, 150,000 Allied troops landed on the coast of Normandy, an invasion of Nazi-occupied France which would claim thousands of lives. By the time the Normandy campaign finished in August, 18,700 Canadians were casualties of the fighting and 5,000 were killed.

St. Patrick High School students were among those who laid a wreath at the Yellowknife cenotaph Thursday. Having toured the battlefields of France and Juno beach last year, where 14,000 Canadian troops landed on D-Day, Holly Knutson says the students attended Thursday’s memorial to commemorate Canada’s military history.

“The Royal Canadian Navy contributed 110 ships and 10,000 sailors and the RCAF contributed 15 fighter and fighter-bomber squadrons to the assault,” the Canadian Encyclopedia states of the D-Day invasion.

Aisling Dunn says it was eye-opening to be at the site of World War II battles and see how many lives were lost within such small geographical spaces. “It was very emotional, for sure.” In total 10,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded that day, including 359 Canadians who perished.

Kate Mendoza remembers a tour of a cemetery in France, where she saw a gravestone of a 15-year-old boy. “That touched me a lot, because it could literally be my brother fighting for our country…It was a very, very, very life-changing experience and trip.”

The students recognized the importance of taking time to remember those who fought. “Because without them we wouldn’t be here today.”