National D-Day Memorial: A Moving Tribute Just Off the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sataue of soldier carrying wounded in one hand and rifle in other

National D-Day Memorial: Remember, Learn, Share

It’s always a bit humbling when you learn that something you thought you knew all your life is not exactly spot on. I learned something new from my visit to National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia.  So I thought that I’d share it.

Since WWI, the Army used the codes D-Day and H-Hour when the actual day and time of battle were undisclosed. For example, D-3 means D minus 3, or three days before the operation. Likewise, D+27,393 is 27,393 days or 75 years after D-Day. It so happens that this June 6, we commemorate 75 years since the Normandy Invasion that turned the tides for Allied Forces in World War II.

two Quonset huts used for visitor center, gift shop and storage.

D-Day was not the name of the operation

My brother Clay, a WWII buff, would give me a hard time if he knew that I always thought that D-Day was the name of the June 6, 1944 operation. As a boomer, growing up in the postwar era, I understood ‘D-Day’ to mean that specific – and horrific – battle on the coast of Normandy, France. I didn’t know it by its true name, ‘Operation Overlord’ until I visited the poignant National D-Day Memorial while touring Virginia’s Blue Ridge Parkway.

bronze plaque with National D-Day memorial engraved

Why is the National D-Day Memorial in the small town of Bedford, Virginia?

“Why is this here?” was one of the first things I asked myself when I learned that the National D-Day Memorial was just nine miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway in the beautiful and rolling Blue Ridge Mountains. I thought that such a massive memorial complex would be situated in Washington DC or another high-population area. Not in the small town of Bedford, Virginia.

Fountain and statue depicting looking through the open door of a troop carrier into the water

Fact is that this rural Virginia town with a population of around 3,000 in 1944 suffered higher per capita casualties of the campaign than any place in the US. Twenty-two of the 32 Bedford men who were part of the invasion died. 

“This somber connection to D-Day and the community’s commitment to honor the sacrifice of those brave souls are two of the primary reasons Bedford was selected as the location for the National D-Day Memorial, which opened in 2001,”  explains Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge website.

Cover of book entitled The Bedford Boys

Best-selling book “The Bedford Boys” inspires the movie Saving Private Ryan

The best-selling book “The Bedford Boys” documents the small town’s losses. It was this book by journalist Alex Kershaw that inspired the movie Saving Private Ryan. In fact, Steven Spielberg, the movie’s director, is a benefactor of the National D-Day Memorial. He donated to the memorial in memory of his father, who was a WWII vet. Incidentally, Kershaw recently published another book about D-Day (on May 14, 2019) entitled “The First Wave.” It’s now on my “Want to Read” Goodreads list. 

You may order the book on Amazon by clicking here or here: https://amzn.to/2K9Cyin

Moved to Tears

Although each paid admission includes a complimentary guided walking tour, I chose to walk through parts of the 50-acre monument alone. While strolling the paved pathways, I was unexpectedly moved both emotionally and spiritually. Through the sounds of the fountains, the emotion depicted in the statues and the informative bronze tableaux, I experienced a connection with those who turned the course of human history and was moved to tears. 

flags on tall flag poles surround the Overlord triumphal arch

In tribute to the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of Allied Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944

Flags of all the countries, which made up the Allied Forces, cracked in the stiff wind. The memorial commemorates the sacrifice of all D-Day participants and not just the local heroes. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded on D-Day alone. United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway and Danish sailors participated in the battle along a 50-mile stretch of beach held by the Nazis.

Seven commanders sit around war desk
By British official photographer - This is photograph TR 1541 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain,

SHAEF Commanders honored at National D-Day Memorial

Th SHAEF Commanders honored at National D-Day Memorial are shown in the above photo and are left to right: Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, Commander in Chief, 12th US Army Group; Admiral Sir Bertram H Ramsay, Allied Naval Commander in Chief, Expeditionary Force; Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur W Tedder, Deputy Supreme Commander, Expeditionary Force; General Dwight D Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Expeditionary Force; General Sir Bernard Montgomery, Commander in Chief 21st Army Group; Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Allied Air Commander, Expeditionary Force; and Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith, Chief of Staff to General Eisenhower.

 

Garden folly with statue of General Dwight D Eisenhower

A sculpture of General Dwight D Eisenhower is inside the garden folly surrounded by busts of of his principal subordinates.

After returning home, memories continued to come up and I finally made a list of all the personal connections that I have to D-Day.

  • Born at Fort Campbell, KY, home to the 11th Airborne Division (Air Assault) and later the reactivated 101st Airborne, I am an Army brat. The 101st is known for its role in Operation Overlord and other operations in WWII.
  • As a young high school foreign exchange student to Normandy in the 1970s, I was profoundly moved by a visit to Omaha Beach.
  • In the 1990s, I stayed at the Grosvenor House in London adjacent to Hyde Park and was surprised to learn that the hotel’s “The Great Room,” originally built as an ice-rink, became an officers’ club during WWII. Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton were regular visitors.
  • This year, while on a Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge press trip, I made an unplanned visit to the National D-Day Memorial. I’m glad I did.

What are YOUR connections to D-Day? Please leave a comment below.

Floor of memorial with "In tribute to the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of Allied Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944" imprinted on it

The memorial will commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day June 6-9, 2019 with a huge airshow. I wish I could be there. Maybe somehow I can pick up the live streaming between the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, and Normandy, France. If you know how I could do that, please leave a comment below.

National D-Day Memorial
3 Overlord Cir, Bedford, VA 24523
www.dday.org

IF YOU GO
$10 per adult – includes guided walking tour
$8 per Veteran or Active Duty Military
$6 per student (ages 6-18) or older with valid college ID
Under 6 – free

Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm with the exception of Monday closings December through February. Closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Thanksgiving Day, and at noon on New Year’s Eve.

Walking tours are scheduled daily between 10 AM and 4 PM. Guided walking tours are approximately one hour and leave from the Gift Store Quonset hut.

The Arizona travel writer, UNSTOPPABLE STACEY, was hosted for her visit to Virginia’s Blue Ridge as is typical in the travel industry. However, the journalist believes in full disclosure and reminds her readers that her opinions are her own.

This article contains AFFILIATE LINKS, which means that when you link to a seller listed from this page and make a purchase, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey may receive a small commission. Your price is not affected – you’re not charged any more, but the commission does help keep this blog up and running to deliver UNSTOPPABLE travel information to you

12 thoughts on “National D-Day Memorial: A Moving Tribute Just Off the Blue Ridge Parkway”

    • Thanks, Diane. I soooo wish I could be there for the 75th anniversary commemorations of D-Day. They will be live streaming between Virginia and Normandy, so may be I’ll find where I can pick that up. If I do, I’ll put a link on FAcebook. Next stop: Erie Canal! I know you and Bob would like to do this someday, so I’m taking copious notes!

  1. Wonderful article…so thankful to live close enough that we visit on Memorial Day every year and usually on June 6 when we can…we attended the opening and will be going for the 75th this year as well…my Mom had 3 brothers and 2 brother in laws who all served in WWII..one had Normandy, one who did not return home…my Father in law served as well in the Pacific during the War…the memorial is a beautiful spot to reflect and honor that generation who sacrificed so much….My one Uncle said ..we just wanted to stay home and get married and live our lives but we went because it had to be done….

  2. Thanks for stopping, it means a lot to those of us who had a family loss that day. Making my pilgrimages to the Memorial and to Omaha Beach are my duties.

    • Thanks for your comment, John. Did you attend the 75th Commemoration of D-Day in Bedford? If so, what was it like for you?

    • Thanks so much for providing the link to the D-Day event. Do you live near Bedford? How was the memorial service with air salute?

  3. Hi Stacey! I was born one week before D-Day, and after my birth my mother developed an infection that almost killed her. In the short time after my birth when she was still healthy she wrote about her happiness at becoming a mother and her grief a the death of one of her former students in the fighting in Europe. After the war turned on D-Day penicillin was released for civilian use for the first time, and my mother was one of the first to receive it. I suspect it saved her life. Even so, she remained hospitalized until the end of July — two months after my birth. I was cared for by my father’s sister until my mother was released from the hospital. Without the timing of D-Day I probably would have been a motherless child soon after my birth.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Linnea. I am glad that you were not a motherless child. Bless you, UNSTOPPABLE Stacey

    • Thanks, Chris. I think we all are! Please share this article with your Bedford friends. I was blessed to visit your fine community, for sure! –UNSTOPPABLE Stacey

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