Remembering D-Day

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An Overview of the Bedford, Virginia, memorial

Recently, I spent a pleasant spring afternoon on a Virginia hillside walking through the memorial for the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, when 160,000 Allied troops landed along the French coastline. The cool southern Virginia breeze belied the horrors of that day on a far-away beach, memorialized at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford.

The monument tells the story of Overlord, the original name for the invasion to free Europe from German Nazi domination. Beginning in the east and moving west, the memorial holds statues of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill and an English garden, stylized a bit for the Americans, but with busts of European generals and admirals and other important military leaders. Standing under a portico at one end is General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the man under whom the whole operation was conceived and executed.

From this garden, the visitor walks up to the Gray Plaza where bronze plaques list the names of 4,413 men who died on D-Day as they came ashore. The Allied Expeditionary Forces represented the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Beyond this one sees a tableau of granite sculptures that represent the gaping opening of the ships disgorging soldiers into the Atlantic as other soldiers struggle to reach the shore as shots rain down on them, killing some while others get ashore. Finally, several soldiers scale the monument wall to the Victory Plaza and its towering arch with teh word Overlord carved into the gray granite. Finally, in the eastern-most section, pedestals under the busts of President Truman and Prime Minister Clement Attlee include a list of the changes they brought and programs they instituted that have shaped our world, even to today, seventy years later.

My family and I have lived in Richmond, Virginia for more than a decade and I often heard stories of the 34 Bedford Boys. During that assault on Omaha Beach in 1944, 19 of the young Bedford men died with four more who died in the subsequent fighting in Normandy. At the time, the town had a population of about 3,200 people, and this great loss, marked Bedford as suffering the severest loss on D-Day, proportionately, of any town in America. Blue Star mothers have children serving in the armed forces. And, Gold Star mothers have lost a child in the services. Little garden spaces remind the visitor to the memorial that flowers bloom from the ground of sorrow. Garden areas with flowering plants and benches remind the visitor that beauty grows from sorrow, a testimony to the resiliency of the human spirit. So, this memorial is built outside this little hamlet in the great Appalachian Mountains. The rural community of Bedford is just east of Roanoke, Virginia on Hwy. 460.

This Memorial Day has greater meaning for me as I realized that my freedom was bought at such a great cost. I am thankful for the men and women who are willing to fight for me to enjoy worshiping God, reading and writing as I please, doing what I believe to be right day after day.

Thank you, veterans, for fighting for me and for us Americans who sometimes forget to say thanks. And, thank you to the families who live on after their loved ones have died fighting for freedom. Such a burden is not an easy one to carry, but I am thankful for your sacrifice.

Our veterans have stories to tell us about the cost of our freedom. Let’s take time this weekend to honor those who have given their lives so we might be free. Share a story today about the never-ending struggle for freedom.

Remember when you are ready to tell your story, we are ready to help!

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