Beauty found at the D-Day Memorial

Published 12:08 pm Thursday, August 11, 2016

As I acclimate myself to living in the Farmville community, I’m taking the opportunity to learn more about Southside Virginia and beyond. Last weekend, I noticed a particular point of interest on a regional map — one I had been promising myself to visit for quite some time: the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford.

About 20 minutes west of Lynchburg, the memorial sits on a high rise overlooking Bedford off U.S. Route 460 to the southwest of town. Unlike some national memorials, there is an admission fee to be let through the gates to visit the D-Day Memorial. It is worth it, however, even on a hot day (which it most definitely was).

The memorial has two primary purposes. First, of course, it commemorates the turning of the tide in World War II’s European theater: the landing of Allied forces on the beaches of Normandy. This is of personal importance to me as my grandfather, Ira, served as a ship’s surgeon, helping to patch up the wounded coming back from the beach.

Secondly, the memorial honors the “Bedford Boys” — 19 members of Company A, 29th Infantry Division, all from Bedford — who died on Omaha Beach before D-Day’s end, June 6, 1944. In proportion, Bedford “suffered the nation’s severest D-Day losses,” according to the memorial’s website. That is why Congress chose Bedford as the memorial’s home.

Although there are several parts to the memorial, the main components are striking in their simplicity: three greater than life-size statues of soldiers on the beach, the water behind filled with “mines” and spitting up shots of water from enemy “gunfire” and then more soldiers climbing the cliffs beyond.

I plan to return to see this beauty again and explore more of a wonderful tribute to the “Greatest Generation.”

Martin L. Cahn is managing editor of The Farmville Herald. His email address is martin.cahn@farmvilleherald.com.