Two days after D-Day -- the day the Allied forces invaded Nazi-occupied France -- German soldiers infiltrated Sgt. John Patrick Ready's command post and took prisoners. But Ready, a 31-year-old New Canaan native, decided to lead fellow prisoners in a bold attempt to escape.

The sergeant was killed in action near Mandeville on June 8, 1944, but his "courage," according to the citation for a Silver Star he was awarded posthumously, "resulted in the capture of the entire patrol."

"He died like a hero and a true member of the First," the citation states.

Ready was one of 39 New Canaan residents killed during World War II and one of a smaller number who died in combat, according to Peter Langenus, commander of New Canaan Post 653 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"I think this is a tragic story that many American families endured during World War II and in other wars as well," Langenus said.

The VFW commander went to see Ready's gravesite in Normandy in October, during his first visit to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer. Langenus did so at the request of Ready's family.

"I think it's so important that we remember our veterans, and I could not say no to them and would never have said no to them," Langenus said. "When we were on our trip, it was a priority for me."

Langenus met Ready's niece, Barbara Bouton, at a party last summer. Bouton was a young child when her family learned of Ready's death.

"I recall the day that the telegram came saying that he had been killed," she said. "We were having a picnic in our yard sometime around Fourth of July."

Ready had joined the Army in 1940, shortly after the war began. Besides the Silver Star, he was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star posthumously.

Scott Ready, John Ready's grandnephew, recently compiled a comprehensive binder with numerous documents, photos, news articles and correspondence about his uncle. He also still keeps a number of John Ready's belongings and awards at his New Canaan home.

During his last years in New Canaan, John Ready lived with the family of one his three brothers, Eugene, on Forest Street. His childhood home was at the foot of the hill on Main Street. He had several jobs as a gardener and also worked for town's Highway Department and the state Department of Agriculture.

During his military training on maneuvers in Georgia, John Ready fractured his skull and temporarily lost his speech. The injury was the cause of severe headaches that plagued him for the rest of his life, but it did not stop him from fighting for his country.

Although he was eligible for a medical discharge, John Ready declined the offer and was deployed overseas in the fall of 1942. Before Normandy, he served in Africa and Sicily.

Scott Ready, a retired firefighter, said that legacy illustrates why the family has had multiple servicemen follow his uncle's death.

"Here's a guy who grew up in New Canaan. He was a brave guy, and a lot of kids strive to be a man, and courageous like that," Scott Ready said. "He set a standard for the family and we got big shoes to fill."

Members of the family over the years have served in the Marines during the Korean War, as a police lieutenant, an FBI agent, among other service personnel, according to Scott Ready.

John Ready also wrote poetry, played baseball and was known as "a true Irish spirit," Bouton said.

The New Canaan woman said she wishes more people attended Veterans Day's events across the country, especially in New Canaan, where about 1,000 veterans are buried.

"I think this day is very important," she said. "I think the younger generation should learn more about what has happened to the war service and those who have given the ultimate sacrifice but also those who have come back. I think it's a history that we have to keep alive. We can't forget."

The town's annual Veterans Day ceremony will be held at God's Acre at 10:55 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11. This year's guest speaker is Forrest Kimes, an Air Force captain and Afghanistan War veteran who was born and raised in New Canaan

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson