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For Americans who never returned from D-Day, a little bit of ‘home’

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WASHINGTON – When thousands descend on the beaches of Normandy Friday for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, the crowds are expected to include tourists, veterans and world leaders there to mark the day.

And Scottsdale resident Stan Dale, who will be carrying scores of little bags filled with dirt.

Dale gathered samples of soil from all 50 states and plans to place it on Omaha Beach for the American soldiers who gave their lives there.

“(They) never had the chance to set foot on real American soil again and now they will,” said Dale. He plans on “making a sandcastle-type of structure” with the soil, placing an American flag on it and letting the soil be washed into the waters.

“I’m doing this to, in a way, try to bring them home one last time,” Dale said by phone from France this week.

Dale got his idea for the tribute last year while planning his first trip to Europe. A visit to Normandy was on the top of the list and when he realized he would be there on the anniversary he thought he should do “something special for the boys that never made it home that day.”

That’s when we got the idea to bring a little bit of America to the fallen Americans. Six months ago, he sent an email to some friends and family and started a Facebook post asking for help getting soil from all 50 states.

He soon started hearing from friends, family – even total strangers. Bags of soil started appearing in his mailbox from all over the country, ultimately from

“It just starting pouring in,” Dale said. “Sometimes I got envelopes with no name on them. The only way I knew where they came from was from the postmark on the envelope.”

Packages came from active military personnel and from families of D-Day and World War II veterans. The family of Richard Onines, a D-Day veteran from Arizona, sent soil from his grave in Tucson, Dale said.

He asked for – and got – a sample of soil from Jack Daniel’s distillery in Tennessee.

Jack Daniel’s spokesman Steve May, who said he collected and mailed the soil to Dale himself, said the company’s participation “means a lot.”

“Knowing a piece of Jack Daniel’s will be on the beaches of Normandy during the 70th anniversary, brings a huge feeling of patriotism to us,” he said.

Dale said the outpouring of help shocked him. The only soil Dale ended up collecting himself came from his backyard and from the USS Arizona Memorial in Phoenix.

Jeff Gatchell, a Phoenix resident who has been a friend of Dale’s since 1998, said the effort doesn’t surprise him.

“Stan doesn’t do things for attention or recognition,” Gatchell said. “He does it for the community and for his country. He is the kind of guy who would do anything for anyone.”

Dale, the son of a WWII veteran, said he is doing it for the men who died on D-Day and throughout the war, and for their families.

“This is my gift, on behalf the baby boomers, to America’s greatest generation,” he said. “These men deserved to be buried on real American soil.”