While reading a brochure on the town of Bedford as well as Bedford county, I found that this is an area ripe with history. Along with the D-Day Memorial, it is the birthplace of Booker T. Washington and at the eastern end of the county, Thomas Jefferson had a retreat built. Yes, Jefferson was here, too. And they say that Washington got around! :)
My folks had told us about the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia and how impressed they were by it. We are camping only about 25 miles from Bedford, so we decided to go see it. I have to admit, and am a little ashamed to do so, I wasn't sure that I would be all that impacted by it. After all, I never studied World War II, or any of the wars in the 20th century, and I don't know anyone who served in that war. But, I figured it's an historical monument and worth touring. So, off we went.
Randy & I drove up to the D-Day Memorial and found it to be beautifully landscaped and well laid-out. And as I figured, there was no rush of emotion for me. I felt kind of bad about that, but there was nothing I could do. After consulting the map, we started our walk through the memorial. As we did, we kept hearing this noise: pffft, pffft, pffft. We couldn't figure out what the heck it was - until we walked around a corner and saw the landing on the beach of Normandy depicted, complete with bullets hitting the water as the troops came ashore. I can tell you - the rush of emotion came at me like a freight train then! The troops might be statues and the bullets just sprays of water, but you find yourself just rooted there waiting for more. Once I gathered myself together, I couldn't wait to walk through the rest of the memorial.
The foundation who oversees the memorial did a wonderful job of sharing their vision to honor those who fought during that battle. There are two walls memorializing the dead; one for our troops and one for our allies. There is a statue of General Eisenhower that is very imposing and a plaque which gives the speech he gave to the troops before they went into battle. All through the memorial are plaques that give the history of certain officers, divisions of various troops (United States & Allies) and the flags of our allies fly alongside the United States flag.
This memorial came about because the town of Bedford, Virginia lost more than 20 young men in the Normandy campaign. Because of the size of Bedford, just 3200 in 1944, their losses in this battle were the most severe per capita in the United States. Recognizing this and seeing Bedford as symbolic of all towns whose soldiers served on D-Day, Congress approved the building of the National D-Day Memorial there.
If you are in the area of Bedford, Virginia, I urge you to stop and take an hour to tour the memorial. Even if you are like I was and unmoved by this war before you see the memorial, I promise you won't walk away from it the same way you came to it.