Sunday, August 16, 2015

D-Day National Memorial Bedford Virginia



On June 6, 1944, forty-four members of a small town in southwest Virginia participated in Operation Overlord. Thirty-Seven were members of Company A 116th Regiment 29th Division of the United States Army. Twenty boys from Bedford, Virginia lost their lives storming the beaches of Normandy, nineteen died on the first day.  The statue pictured here is titled "Homage" and is emblematic of the feeling of loss which every community in the nation feels when one of its boys does not come home from war.

The Memorial was dedicated on June 6, 2001 and is a solemn tribute to those who fought and died in Operation Overlord.  The Memorial begins with a long avenue which leads to a large oval shaped plaza. 

At the entrance to the avenue stands a macabre statue named, Le Monument aux Morts donated by the citizens of France depicting a faceless warring angel of death. 

Surrounding the Overlord Arch are the flags of the Allied Forces who participated in the Normandy Invasion.  In the distance the Peaks of Otter stand as silent sentinels to the memorial.

Inside the arch is Final Tribute, a statue of a battle grave of a fallen soldier and the seal depicting the nations involved in the invasion.  

The Latin inscription: Ad commemorandum fortitudinem, fidelitatem, sacrificumeorum means "Remembering  their valor, fidelity and sacrifice. 

On the lower level, the plaza is enclosed on the far side by an arch shaped wall with the name of every Allied soldier who died on D-Day.  This arch frames the waterfall beneath the Overlord Arch in front of which are statues that depict the beaches of Normandy.  

The statue Scaling the Wall is a dramatic display of the courage and initiative of those soldiers who fought across the beaches and scaled the seawalls to break through the German defenses. 

Beyond the memorial wall is a flower adorned garden which is surrounded by the busts of the principle commanders of the invasion.  

At the far end of the garden is a gazebo with the statue of the General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Surrounding the garden are crepe myrtles which were in full bloom.  Using them to frame the distant Sharp Top Mountain, I unexpectedly captured the head and shoulders of the Homage statue, which makes it seems for the moment that one of the Bedford Boys has returned home. 

As we were leaving the memorial, I paused to listen to the last comments of a tour guide who pointed out a significant feature of the statue which guards the entrance to the memorial.  It depicts a soldier dragging a wounded comrade to safety.

On the hand of the soldier is a gold wedding ring which was donated by a widow of one of the Bedford Boys.  For me this statue completed the memorial.  The ultimate sacrifice, the life ended too soon, the family devastated, the courage, the horror, the pride...all these feelings illustrated by this simple ring. 

Go and visit this place.  Take a young person with you.  Tell them of those you know who were part of the Greatest Generation.  Make them marvel with you of what men they were. And make sure we kindle within the soul of this country the courage, the commitment, and love for our fellow man, that we are willing to make this sacrifice again if required.

"Men, I am not a religious man and don't know your feelings in this matter, but I am going to ask you to pray with me for the success of the mission before us. And as we pray, get on your knees and not look down, but up, with faces raised to the sky, so we can see God, and ask his blessing in what we are about to do."   

"God, Almighty, in a few short hours we shall be in battle with the enemy.  We do not join this battle afraid.  We ask not for favor or indulgence, but ask, if You will, use us as an instrument for right and aid in returning peace to the world."  
                             Lt. Col. Robert Wolverton 


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