The remembrance of D-Day is always a special and solemn occasion.
One of the most crucial events of World War II, June 6, 1944 marked the landing of Allied forces on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Nazi-occupied France. The largest seaborne invasion ever, over 2,500 Americans gave their lives for the cause of freedom in what became a turning point of the war.
The battle saw its 76th anniversary fall this weekend, and with it came a video treat shared on social media in local circles — a video of the Horse Soldier Bourbon founders making their own unique trek to this historic site in France.
The video was filmed on June 5 of 2019, before Horse Soldier Bourbon rode into town and agreed to put their new distillery right here in Somerset.
Though it may seem an eternity ago with everything that's happened in the world since, it was just February of this year when the men and women behind Horse Soldier Bourbon were introduced officially to their new Kentucky home at the Somerset Energy Center in a packed-house press conference.
"This really is the next chapter of our lives. All we want out of America is the American dream we've been defending," said Horse Soldier's Scott Neil at the time.
The company's owners are members of the first U.S. Army Special Forces unit to enter Afghanistan following the infamous 9/11 attacks. The small teams of Green Berets, mounted on horseback, rode into northern Afghanistan. These men became known as "The Horse Soldiers" -- thus the name of their brand of bourbon.
The 2018 film "12 Strong" is based on their story.
SPEDA (Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority) announced last December plans to bring the bourbon company into the area, with a two-phase, $50 million project that sought to add 56 direct jobs.
Chris Girdler, president and CEO of SPEDA, shared on Facebook the video of the Horse Soldier Bourbon crew parachuting into Carentan, France on Friday in advance of the D-Day anniversary, as well as a statement about the occasion and people involved.
"(Saturday) as we remember the anniversary of D-Day, we pay tribute to all of our veterans who served in World War II," said Girdler. "We are simply honored to be the future world headquarters for Horse Soldier Bourbon, and we say thank you to its founders not only for choosing our community, but for their heroism and service."
He added, "Having a bourbon distillery choose to locate in Somerset and Pulaski County is special in and of itself, but having one that so wholly embodies the American spirit is extraordinary."
The video, a little over six minutes in length, shows the three-months-prior preparation that individuals like Neil and John Koko, who also participated in the press conference earlier this year, made before their planned jump from a plane — to arrive by air, rather than sea (or by horse). It shows the group tour the scenic Normandy area and explains the "hand-in-hand" history of whisky and World War II, as well as the French roots of bourbon, a Kentucky drink. The Horse Soldier group met with veterans on the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, and visited significant sites in the area, remembering the fallen from the war. And of course, there's plenty of promotion of the Horse Solider Bourbon product itself — such as pouring a bit of it into the waters — before making their epic jump into beautiful rolling French countryside near those legendary shores, greeted on the ground by a clapping crowd.
"It was special," said Horse Soldier's Bob Pennington.
The video can be viewed on Vimeo.com, titled "Horse Soldier Bourbon • Normandy, D-Day 75th."