It’s Saturday, September 9, and we are taking a rest day in Roanoke, VA. We fulfilled one goal of this trip which was to visit the National D-Day Memorial, located in Bedford, VA. The “why” behind how this memorial came to be located in this small, out-of-the-way town is that on D-Day, 20 of the 36 soldiers from Bedford, VA were killed, making it the highest known per capita D-Day loss of any locale in our nation.
We walked around this large outdoor exhibit along with 8 busloads of cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, which is in Lexington, VA, our day 2 stopping point. One of the highlights I think for the cadets was to listen to one of the docents talk about his experience on D-Day. This gentleman, a Marine veteran with all sorts of medals wore his dress uniform and held the cadets in rapture for his 20-minute talk. He has to be pushing 100 but remains vigorous and eager to tell his story – as he should be. The first photo below is of the marine. The middle shot depicts the moment the front of the landing craft that put our soldiers on the beach facing enemy fire, and the third photo is a memorial to the brave warriors clawing their way up the rock face of the walls from which the Germans were firing down at the beach. Think of the opening scene of the movie Saving Private Ryan.
I could not help but reflect that while our bike ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway is certainly a physical and mental challenge, it is nothing compared to what Tom Brokaw, the TV news anchor referred to as the Greatest Generation faced on D-Day. This visit was a somber reminder of the sacrifice so many made to assure our freedom. I hope that in these tumultuous times, we do not forget these things.