Jim Parks was among the first Canadian soldiers to arrive on Juno Beach 71 years ago Saturday. He was a part of the unit meant to arrive moments before the D-Day assault began, to set up mortars while armoured bulldozers pulled out obstacles so assault craft could storm ashore.

“The only problem is we got hit by a mine. Then we got hit by a 75 mm anti-tank gun,” said Parks, who was 19 at the time and turned 90 this year.

Parks and the other members of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles had to swim through rough waters and strong current to get to the beach, while German machine gunfire whizzed towards them. “But I wasn’t paying attention to them as much as surviving,” he recounted.