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Paying Tribute--History Students Visit National D-Day Memorial


The Victory Arch is the first thing visitors to the Memorial see upon arrival. (Photo by Emma Duncan)

By Sarah Rafael-Javier- Eagle Staff Writer

Students in history classes recently visited the National D-Day Memorial in nearby Bedford as part of their unit on WWII. There they toured the memorial and learned more about this most pivotal battle and those who fought there.


On June 6, 1944, in one of the most pivotal battles of World War II, United States soldiers invaded the French coastline in order to propel German soldiers out of Western Europe and lead the way for victory against the tyrants of that era. Dedicated on June 6th, 2001 by President George W. Bush, the National D-Day Memorial was constructed in honor of those who died that day fighting in one of the most significant battles in our nation's history.


President Bush stated in his dedication speech, “Fifty-seven years ago, America and the nations of Europe formed a bond that has never been broken. And all of us incurred a debt that can never be repaid. Today, as America dedicates our D-Day Memorial, we pray that our country will always be worthy of the courage that delivered us from evil and saved the free world."


The Middle Plaza of the Memorial depicts the landing of soldiers on the beaches of Normandy. (Photo by Emma Duncan)

The grounds for the monument take visitors on an archival journey through World War II and the politics and perils that embody the time period. At the entrance of the memorial is a large arch made out of granite. Interestingly, it measures 44 feet, 6 inches tall to symbolize June 6, 1944.


The memorial features other amazing features to see like the invasion pool, which includes statues of soldiers making their way to the beaches of Normandy, France. To add a little bit of effect, air jets make the water splash as if there were bullets hitting the water. There are also other statues of fallen soldiers, generals, and people who assisted in planning and executing the Normandy invasion, showcasing the sacrifice many men made.


Bedford was one of the eleven Virginia communities that provided a company of soldiers. A group of soldiers that were there was the Bedford boys. There were some 30 soldiers that were in the company during D-day while others from Bedford were in other D-day companies. By the end of it all, nineteen soldiers from the Bedford Company had died, and two died in Normandy. Bedford's population in 1944 was about 3,200. The community of Bedford suffered the most losses. This is why Congress warranted the establishment of the National Memorial in Bedford.


According to the Memorial's website, "The monument receives an average of 60,000 visitors a year and is a profound addition to America’s war memorials. Initiated by D-Day veteran J. Robert “Bob” Slaughter, the memorial encompasses more than 50 acres at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Paying tribute to the men and women who served their country in one of its most dire battles, the D-Day National Memorial creates a solemn atmosphere for veterans and visitors alike to gain insight and learn more about the events that shaped our nation’s and our world’s history."


To learn more about The Memorial visit their page at https://www.dday.org/.


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