I've never been much of a paintball enthusiast, what with my naturally soft and sensitive skin and my hatred of sweating, but I've always been able to appreciate the almost religious enthusiasm that people show for it as a sport. And you can argue that it's not a sport, but it involves running, strategy, cool equipment and, best of all, shooting people in the heads, so it qualifies as a sport in my book. Plus, if I can play with the cast of The Wire, then it's obviously awesome.
With that said, for the past 14 years, people have flocked to Oklahoma on June 6 to honor D-Day, when the Allied Forces stormed German-occupied France and really made Hitler soil his lederhosen. What started as a tribute by 135 paintballers has turned into an event that draws more than 15,000.
Instead, in a rugged, 800-acre park, Allied Forces and the Third Reich will compete to achieve certain goals based on the many individual battles that occurred 67 years ago.
There are mock tanks rumbling around, pyrotechnics exploding and soldiers tumbling out of plywood landing craft amid a cacophony of clacking paintball guns.
"The field sorts out the men from the boys," said Andy Van Der Plaats, a 64-year-old marketing consultant from North Fort Myers, Fla., and a high-ranking officer in the Allied paintball chain of command. "The adrenalin is just cranked. It's stressful." (Reuters)
This year's event started yesterday with a flag-raising, as participants take this reenactment very seriously, since it is attended by guys like 92-year old Jack McNiece, who was a paratrooper on D-Day. Organizers spend the week leading up to June 11 - the day of their big battle - educating the participants in what that war and especially that day means to Americans and our allies. Oh, and they also shoot the hell out of each other in the meantime, as you can see in this little gallery of previous D-Day events.
This may or may not be a picture from a previous D-Day event, but I'm hoping it is. You know, for humanity's sake.