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D-Day recreatedin Gypsum

Kathy Heicher
Kathy Heicher/Enterprise A troop of Nazi soldiers "watches" the invasion of Normandy from afar. Note the officer with the binoculars at right.
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When he was a kid, Gypsum resident Joaquin Garcia liked to play with toy soldiers.Now he’s 26 and he still likes miniature soldiers – but on a more serious, and historically accurate scale.On a recent weekend, working in the gypsum soils and sagebrush at Eagle Valley Trap Club in Gypsum, Garcia spent over 10 hours setting up a diorama commemorating the invasion of Normandy by Allied Forces in World War II.He posed soldier figures climbing up a hill in their Army vehicles. A village scene features buildings made of Styrofoam and plywood, with details creating the atmosphere of a recently attacked town, with bomb-blackened walls and broken trusses. A small group of miniature soldiers pose for a photographer in the town square. Others explore a recently bombed church. A medic attends to a wounded soldier.

In the distance are soldiers fighting from a foxhole. Nearby, another soldier digs a grave. Farther away, on a “ridge,” German soldiers watch the scene through binoculars. It’s a hobby that not many people take up. Using 12-inch high plastic figures with bending joints, and made-to-scale army tanks, Jeeps and amphibious vehicles, Garcia, 26, recreated a historic scene that drew an appreciative audience of trap-shooters and their families participating in a regional meet.For Garcia, his hobby – which involves countless hours of building model vehicles and working out minute details for the soldier figures – reflects his love of history. The weekend diorama also reflected something else.”I’m proud to do this in memory of the soldiers. I do it for the people that gave their lives for the country years ago,” he says.

Garcia, who was born in Mexico, has always had a fascination with history. He reads extensively to research his diorama scenes and is an avid fan of World War II. He also searches out old copies of Life and Time magazines that feature photographs of World War II.He started out by purchasing a few of the 12-inch action figures and setting up small dioramas. The figures and materials can be bought at hobby stores and toy stores.He’s a carpenter by trade, and those real-life skills have been helpful in re-creating the war-torn village scenes. Garcia is also a member of the Denver-based Colorado Action Figure Club, whose members gather periodically and combine their soldiers and model buildings and vehicles into large-scale dioramas.Detail is the key. Garcia customizes the model vehicles, painting them to look rusted. He spent hours creating a tiny package of Lucky Strikes cigarettes to tuck into the a soldier’s helmet. The German soldiers wear tiny Nazi armbands. He estimates he worked more than 890 hours to build a single landing craft.

This is a hobby that requires a lot of patience.”Sometimes it is frustrating. Sometimes it doesn’t come out the way you want. You have to keep doing it,” he says. He has to find hours for his hobby somewhere in between his job, and tending to his family – a wife and four kids.The dioramas have been his hobby for five years, and each year he tries to make his scene a little better. He says his dream is to someday travel to Normandy, to the actual locations of the scenes he reproduces. The people, adults and children, who went to the gun club over the weekend to see Garcia’s diorama said they were fascinated by the details, and touched by the gesture. May 30th was the 60th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy.”For me, all the people who fought in World War II are heroes,” Garcia says. “If it wasn’t for them, maybe we would be speaking German.”


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