Join 5,000 participants as they restage D-Day, the notorious 6th of June invasion of Normandy. Instead of bullets, it's paintball; instead of the French coast, it's Oklahoma. And, every year, it's any man's game, which means the Germans could win! Staged on a 700-acre battlefield owned by the grandson of a veteran of Omaha Beach, this yearly battle of paint is fought as a tribute to all veterans. These paintball soldiers take "gung ho" to an all-time high, utilizing real tanks and airplanes for this epic fight.
Dawn breaks over the rural Oklahoma landscape. A lazy summer dew hangs over the hilly and lush terrain as crickets and birds chirp peacefully.
"Aaaaa-TEN-tion!" barks "Beatle" to a group of men and women dressed in full-on combat gear. They quickly line up in formation. "This is it," says the leader of 899th Black Cat Tank Destroyers. We've waited all year for this. We can do it."
Around them, 5000 other similarly dressed people are busy preparing for the assault of their lives. It's the second Saturday in June and that means a full-on re-staging of the Invasion of Normandy is moments away. The game has only two major differences between it and the historical battleâ€”the troops fight with paint, not bullets, and the Germans could win.
The battle marks the culmination of a year's worth of preparation by members of both the Allied and German high commands. They have been busy waging a battle against each other off the field and, this year, animosity between the two sides is running at an all-time high.
As these troops and their units file onto the field to their starting positions under an eerie haze, passing half-destroyed structures, many surely feel some semblance of the butterflies the actual troops felt at Normandy 60 years prior.
For Dewayne Convirs, founder and owner of the event "Oklahoma D-Day", that is exactly what he wants them to feel. Convirs developed the game through inspiration from his grandfather, who landed on Omaha Beach as part of the 238th Engineers.
Each year, Dewayne makes new additions to the field in an effort to heighten the realism of the game. This year, he's building a full-scale replica church like the one the Germans used for a bunker on Omaha in '44, as well as installing a 100-year-old bridge he transported from a nearby town to signify Pegasus Bridge, the objective of the British airborne forces.
As the troops ready themselves near these positions many of them are surely thinking this is like no video game I've ever played. As Beatle explains it, it's not a surround-sound experience, it's a sweat around experience.
As Dewayne's assistant readies his flare to mark the start of the battle, no doubt many a bead of sweat may be found trickling down the brows of most involved. For the commanders, the ultimate bragging rights are at stake. They are about to realize a year's worth of planning and one-upmanship. For the grunts on the ground, they know they will experience pain today. They are about to be thrown into a battle that may be the closest thing to actual war they may ever experience. They only hope their bravery will be realized in glory instead of defeat.