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1st Infantry Division honors 75th anniversary of D-Day, fallen soldiers

Despite the odds, the Allied troops who invaded France to take back the area from German military forces on June 6, 1944, displayed courage and determination above all else, said Brigadier Gen. Todd Wasmund, Deputy Commanding General for Support.

Civilians, military personnel and even six World War II veterans turned out at Fort Riley Thursday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when more than 160,000 Allied troops invaded Western Europe during World War II, leading to the eventual victory against Nazi Germany.

“D-Day isn’t a story from history books,” Wasmund said. “It isn’t facts and figures, numbers of ships and troops and tanks and jeeps. D-Day was real soldiers, most drafted, many afraid, who nonetheless embarked upon this great crusade, as Gen. Dwight Eisenhower called it, to bring about security in a free world.”

The names of all 316 Big Red One soldiers who died that day were read during the ceremony, which was closed out with a 21-gun salute.

Soldiers of the First Infantry Division stormed Omaha Beach, a section of the Normandy coast in France, on D-Day and were met with “an inconceivable amount” of arms and artillery fire. Bombs intended to weaken German defenses missed their targets, only five of 32 amphibious tanks meant to give fire support made it to the beach, and hundreds of soldiers were cut down by enemy fire. However, the troops rallied together and persisted, ousting German forces off the beach.

“We learned great lessons from the history that we commemorated today,” Wasmund said. “We learn about things like preparation and training, we learn about the courage and determination, we train based on those lessons that we learn, the importance of our alliances and our partnerships around the world. That’s how we train today and we really learned that back in the time of the invasion we commemorated.”

Orris Kelly, a World War II veteran, was presented a retired flag outside the Division headquarters during the ceremony, representing his fellow service members.

Kelly, 93, Manhattan, said he served at the tail-end of World War II, joining the Army in January of 1944. He started out as young cadet before attending officer candidate school at the end of the war and becoming an 18-year-old second lieutenant, overseeing a platoon of soldiers much older than him.

When people look back at this period of history, Kelly said he hoped people remembered the sacrifices of those who served.

“The sacrifices that the young men and women made were just horrendous,” Kelly said. “It’s almost unbelievable. I know at the end of the second world war, a friend of mine went into Dachau (concentration camp) and brought out pictures of the Jewish people that were destroyed by the Germans. That was one of the first things that really hit me hard … and all of those things probably stayed with me more than anything else. The sacrifices the young men made, we wouldn’t have this world today without that.”

Area candidates make bid for TR principal job

Teachers heard from two area administrators seeking the job of principal at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary Thursday.

Trina Dibbini and Rachel Buessing both answered questions during a forum at the school as part of their interviews for the position.

Dibbini currently serves as an assistant principal at Manhattan High School. Buessing currently serves as the assistant principal at Seitz Elementary School on Fort Riley.

Dibbini got her start as a drug and alcohol counselor, but eventually decided that she wanted to work with kids to make more of an impact at a younger age. She started as a first-grade teacher, eventually teaching eighth-grade history, sixth and seventh grade, then moved to an administrative position. She served as an assistant principal in Salina and Fort Riley Middle School, then in her current position two years ago.

She said she feels she’s ready for a leadership role and wants to make an impact on young kids.

“You’re in elementary school with these kids longer and you can develop a plan to get them on the best pathway,” Dibbini said.

Dibbini, whose children attended Theodore Roosevelt, said she didn’t apply for other USD 383 principal openings. She said she applied for this one because felt such a draw to the family atmosphere at the school.

She and Buessing both said they’re collaborative leaders.

“I don’t know it all,” Dibbini said. “I have a team for a reason and I may have a vision, but I can’t get there by myself.”

Buessing had similar sentiments.

“I like to ask my staff, ‘What does support look like to you?’” she said. “I’m very communicative and collaborative.”

Buessing originally majored in journalism and worked in marketing before realizing she wanted to go into teaching, which runs in her family. She’s taught third grade at Rossville Grade School and West Elementary in Wamego before stepping into her current position.

She said if she got the job, she would spend time first building relationships with the families and staff, then learning the history and culture of the school. Finally, she said she wants to develop a deeper understanding of the student data and try to optimize learning opportunities.

Buessing said she only applied for this job as opposed to the other open elementary principal positions in the district because she’d heard from people about the family atmosphere and wanted to find a school where she fit in best.

Ashley Smith, assistant principal at Riley County Grade School, was scheduled to interview Friday.

Kansas Supreme Court appoints Bannister as chief judge

The Kansas Supreme Court has appointed District Judge Grant Bannister as chief judge of the 21st Judicial District effective from June 16 through Dec. 31.

Bannister will succeed Judge Meryl Wilson, who will retire June 16.

The 21st Judicial District is composed of Clay and Riley counties.

“We are glad that Judge Bannister has agreed to serve as chief judge, providing continuity in capable leadership in the 21st Judicial District,” Lawton Nuss, chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, said in a press release.

Bannister became a district judge for the 21st Judicial District in September 2016.

“I am grateful to be surrounded by hard-working staff, clerks, and judges who are dedicated to having fair, efficient, and accessible district courts in Riley and Clay counties,” Bannister said. “I look forward to the modernization and advancements being undertaken by the judicial system to better serve the people of Kansas.”

Bannister also praised the outgoing chief judge.

“It has been a pleasure to work with retiring Chief Judge Meryl Wilson who has selflessly and admirably served the judiciary for over 22 years,” he said.

Bannister graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1997. He was in private practice in Manhattan for 19 years and also served as an adjunct professor teaching ethics in the College of Business at Kansas State University. He is married and has three children.

Each of Kansas’ 31 judicial districts has a chief judge who, in addition to judicial responsibilities, has general control over case assignments within the district, as well as general supervisory authority over the administrative and clerical functions of the court.

Nominations for the district judge position being vacated by Wilson will be accepted through June 28. Interviews are scheduled for July 24.

Complete K-13 to reopen next week

After 15 months of construction, Highway K-13 over Tuttle Creek Dam is reopening.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday that a bridge deck replacement project over the dam’s spillway structure is complete. That bridge helps connect Riley and Pottawatomie counties.

The Corps anticipates opening the highway on or shortly after Monday.

Unrelated to the construction project, the Kansas Highway Patrol closed a different portion of the highway over the dam two weeks ago. That was prompted by safety concerns for increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic associated with high lake levels and releases.

That section will also be reopened, but pedestrians will be prohibited on or along that section once the highway is reopened, and vehicles are likewise prohibited from stopping on the dam.

Officials are also closing parking areas adjacent to the highway over the dam to discourage pedestrian traffic. Instead, people wishing to see the lake should go to Observation Point, the Spillway Overlook, the Spillway Cycle Area, or Outlet Park.

The River Pond Area of Tuttle Creek State Park remains under an evacuation order until K-13 is reopened. Public access to the park will continue to be limited as state officials continue to address flood impacts.