Bible Belonging to D-Day Soldier and "Bedford Boy" John Schenk Honored as Part of the Top 10 Endangered Artifact Program.
VIRGINIA ASSOCIATION OF MUSEUMS ANNOUNCES THE 2014 TOP 10 ENDANGERED ARTIFACTS IN VIRGINIA
Richmond, VA - The Virginia Association of Museums (vamuseums.org) announced today the 2014 honorees of Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts,a program designed to create awareness about the importance of preserving artifacts in the care of collecting institutions such as museums, historical societies, libraries and archives throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and District of Columbia.
Below is the list of the Top 10 Honorees and their artifact names and locations. In addition is the 'People's Choice' Honoree that received the most votes during the program's online voting competition. Click here for a complete list of the 2014 Honorees with media contacts for each of the 11 organizations recognized. Click here for a complete list of the artifacts' descriptions and threats. Images are available upon request.
2014 VIRGINIA'S TOP 10 ENDANGERED ARTIFACTS HONOREES:
Anne Spence House and Garden Museum Handmade Mosaic Tile by Artist Amaza Lee Meredith Lynchburg, VA (Central Virginia)
Archeological Society of Virginia Virginia's Oldest Batteau Charles City, VA (Central Virginia)
Danville Historical Society General Store Ledger, 1798 Danville, VA (Southern Virginia)
George C. Marshall Foundation D-Day Landing Map Lexington, VA (Shenandoah Valley)
Manassas Museum System Liberia House Civil War Graffiti Manassas, VA (Northern Virginia)
Museum of the Shenandoah Valley Portrait Miniature of Thomas Boyle Campbell (1796-1858) Winchester, VA (Shenandoah Valley)
National D-Day Memorial John Schenk's New Testament Bible carried with him on Omaha Beach June 6, 1944 Bedford, VA (Central Virginia)
Ordnance Training and Heritage Center Skeleton Tank Fort Lee, VA (Central Virginia)
Pamunkey Indian Museum and Cultural Center Chief Paul Miles' Regalia King William, VA (Chesapeake Bay)
Rockbridge Historical Society War of 1812 Cavalry Helmet - Rockbridge Dragoons Lexington, VA (Shenandoah Valley)
PEOPLE'S CHOICE HONOREE:
Salem Museum and Historical Society Preston Papers Salem, VA (Shenandoah Valley)
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts is a project of theVirginia Association of Museums. This public outreach campaign for collections care was launched in 2011 with support from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
Following three successful years of building awareness for over 60 organizations and their artifacts located across Virginia and DC, the Top 10 has inspired numerous positive outcomes such as pairing donors with artifacts in need of conservation support, new volunteers discovering museums, and grantors rewarding organizations for their stewardship. Eleven artifacts have been conserved and more continue to be. While the results of public voting was a factor in the final decision, the list of "Top 10" honorees was selected by an independent review panel of collections and conservation experts from the Library of Virginia, Preservation Virginia, Virginia Conservation Association, Virginia Department of Historic Resources, as well as an independent conservator.
On Saturday, Aug. 9, Tullahoma resident Phil Pavone turned 90. In itself, that’s not such an unusual feat – according to the U.S. Census Bureau, men and women above the age of 90 are now the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population — but for Pavone, a veteran of the WWII Normandy invasions, it’s a landmark he never thought he’d see.
Pavone was drafted into the war three months prior to his high school graduation. At age 19, he and the 29th infantry division arrived at Ft. Riley, Kansas for horseback cavalry training — only to be told that instead they would be fighting as infantry on D-Day as “casualty replacement” for the first wave to land on Normandy beach.
“When we all heard that, our morale went way down. It put a fright into us,” said Pavone. “We were the first replacements of the 116th regiment. There were very few of the original division left.”
The Allied invasion of Europe and the subsequent Battle of Normandy was the beginning of the end of WWII, resulting in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control in one of the largest amphibious attacks in history, but the loss of life was significant. Continuing research by the U.S. National D-Day Memorial Foundation places 2,500 American fatalities among more than 4,000 Allied personnel killed on June 6, 1944 alone.
“I had never seen a dead person up until then. We saw some floating on the water and hundreds of bodies lying on the beach.”
The 116th regiment belonging to the 29th division suffered an 80 percent casualty rate and Pavone, a rifleman, was himself wounded three times in the war.
“A rifleman has probably a two-week period before he gets wounded. There’s nobody between you and the enemy. You’ve got your rifle, the enemy is facing you. You’re right on the very front line and you have nothing there to protect you.”
After each injury, Pavone returned to combat. “Each time I went back, there was a new group of people,” he said. “When you’re in the rifle squad, you have a squad of 12 fellas that work together as a unit. When you’re in combat, you lose a couple of these people. Somebody new comes in. You don’t really get to know that new person. You don’t have the time. Before you know it, he could be gone again.”
The Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945. In October, Pavone returned stateside.
From Normandy to Normandy
Pavone hadn’t really planned his move to Tennessee. He lived, married, had four children, worked until he was 71 years old, and retired in Englewood, New Jersey.
“I was going on 80 years old when I left New Jersey, by myself. I sold my house. I got rid of all my furniture. I only kept the television set that I had. I kept my clothing. What furniture my kids could use, I let them take and the rest of it I wound up giving to the Salvation Army.”
Pavone had by then lost two wives and an adult son and was en route to stay with his brother’s widow in Florida until he could find a place of his own there when the “displaced New Jerseyan” found himself permanently tied to Middle Tennessee.
Pavone had offered to “babysit” his niece’s dog in Normandy while she and her husband were visiting Alaska. While he was there, friends of the couple invited him to a local real estate auction.
“Up in New Jersey, we didn’t have house auctions; we worked strictly through realtors. So I thought ‘I’ll go down, see how that operates.’”
When the bidding started, Pavone says, he realized the price was “pretty reasonable” compared to either Jersey or his Florida destination. “So I found myself putting out a bid. Then someone else put one out and I put a little higher and finally I wound up the high bidder.”
He’s lived in the home near Ovoca Lake ever since, where he enjoys having good neighbors on either side. “They are nice neighbors. They’ve been good to me.”
“I enjoy it; I just wish I knew more people.”
The Best of Times
In recounting his life, Pavone is most enthusiastic to remember his time as a Little League manager, president, and district administrator in New Jersey. He can describe in great detail the participants, specific plays and a myriad of colorful details from a Little League career that spanned 30 years.
“If you want to talk Little League, I’ll talk for two or three days,” Pavone said. “That was my first love. I made some of the best friends of my life in Little League baseball. I guess maybe sometimes I wonder why God ever allowed me to come through the war – wounded three times, I could have been killed but I came through it. I often wondered why me and not the fellow that got shot right next to me. And maybe it was to work with these kids.”
By the time he moved to Tennessee, Pavone decided that he might be “too old now” to participate in the local leagues, “but I would love to. I love baseball. Why? You don’t have to be big to play it. A little kid can play as well as a big kid.”
“I think that’s part of what kept me young. I don’t know what a 90-year-old is supposed to feel like.”
No longer participating in Little League, Pavone now keeps himself active with a senior’s bowling league and the company of his 11-year-old dachshund, Reba.
“She’s my little girlfriend,” said Pavone. At first, though, he had resisted taking her in. “I used to have large dogs, I couldn’t see myself walking down the street following a little hot dog,” he said. But when the woman who’d found the dog on the streets brought Reba to visit, Pavone said, “I guess it was love at first sight. She came over to me and started to lick my hand and I looked into her eyes and I said, ‘I’ll keep her.’ I’ve had her for 10 years now.”
At 90, Pavone doesn’t do as much traveling as he once did. “I used to drive down to Florida and up to Connecticut to visit my daughters but I don’t take those long trips anymore. I don’t like to do it by myself. It’s a long drive.”
He jokes that though Reba is good company, “(She) doesn’t have a driver’s license. She can’t spell me.” And the last time he flew, he said, “security got me annoyed. It makes you feel like a criminal.”
So for Pavone’s 90th birthday, 13 family members from around the country – his daughter, two sons, grandkids and great-grandkids — made the trip to Tennessee to see him, spending a week in Tullahoma and celebrating the occasion with a luncheon cruise aboard the Chattanooga-based Southern Belle Riverboat and a tour of the Chattanooga Aquarium.
Celebrating the milestone birthday with family was a special moment for Pavone. He said, “I didn’t think I’d ever make it.”
First-year cadets to visit the National D-Day Memorial on Sept. 6
The bonds, both past and present, between the memorial and Virginia Tech are strong and continue to grow each year as another group of cadets visits this hallowed place.
For each cadet class this trip has become a tradition, a training opportunity, and more importantly an eye-opening reminder for many cadets of the commitment they are making to the corps and as future officers in our nation's military.
The motivational trip allows the newest cadets to learn about the special relationship between Virginia Tech and the Bedford memorial as well as the history and remarkable people the memorial represents.
Twenty Virginia Tech alumni made the ultimate sacrifice on the beaches of Normandy and the surrounding area on June 6, 1944, and the weeks immediately afterwards.
Eight alumni died on the beaches on the first day of the invasion, including alumnus 1st Lt. Jimmie Monteith, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valorous actions in securing a position on Omaha Beach. Monteith served in the corps of cadets as a member of the Class of 1941 in K Company. He led his troops on D-Day on Omaha Beach and repeatedly organized numerous assaults against the enemy despite heavy fire. Monteith was killed in action and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
Virginia Tech's Monteith Hall is named after him and houses part of the 3rd Battalion of the corps, which includes Kilo Battery the unit Monteith belonged to as a cadet.
A commemorative plaque now hangs at the D-Day Memorial recognizing these 20 alumni of Virginia Tech.
The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets continues its support of the National D-Day Memorial with its annual collection at Corps Homecoming, which will be held this year in conjunction with the East Carolina game on Sept. 13, also Military Appreciation Day. Cadets will be collecting at all gates prior to kickoff.
The Corps of Cadets has collected more than $198,000 for the memorial and is the largest, non-corporate sponsor of the D-Day memorial. The corps recognizes and is thankful for the support of all Hokies during this annual collection.
The Corps of Cadets started supporting the memorial in 2001 when then Cadet Anthony Madeira, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering in 2005, read that the memorial was facing bankruptcy and felt someone needed to step up and help. Madeira started the effort as a company service project and his company raised $6,000 the first year and $10,000 the next and by Madeira’s senior year it had developed into a corps-wide annual service project.
The trip would not be possible without the generosity of now deceased Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets alumnus Raymond Reed, Class of 1957, and his wife Peggy who understood the importance of today’s cadets learning about those who have gone before them. Peggy Reed continues to make the trip a reality by funding the transportation and meal costs while the memorial grants the cadets free admission.
The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets has produced military, public, and corporate leaders since the university was founded in 1872. It is one of just two military corps within a large public university. The corps holds its members to the highest standards of loyalty, honor, integrity, and self-discipline. In return, cadets achieve high academic success and a long-lasting camaraderie with fellow members. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.
August 4, 2014
Bible Belonging to D-Day Soldier Nominated for Top 10 Endangered Artifact Program
Bedford, Virginia--The National D-Day Memorial has nominated the Bible belonging to “Bedford Boy” John Schenk to the Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifact competition. The Bible was gifted to John by his step-mother, Rose Lewis Schenk, prior to the D-Day invasion. Assigned to the 29th Division, 116th Regiment, Company A, John Schenk landed in the first wave of the assault on Omaha Beach at 0630 with 34 young soldiers from Bedford, Virginia. In his pocket, he carried this Bible—a physical connection to his family an ocean away—when he became part of the largest amphibious invasion in history along the Normandy coastline on June 6, 1944.
It is imperative to conserve artifacts such as Schenk’s Bible, according to Felicia Lowrance, Education Coordinator for the National D-Day Memorial. “Historical pieces such as this create tangible connections to our shared past. This Bible represents millions of family members and friends who would inevitably cheer the news of the successful invasion or grieve at the loss of loved ones.”
Ivylyn Schenk, had no idea her husband, John, lay buried on the beaches of Normandy when she composed her daily letter on June 25, 1944. She wrote “John, my darling. Well, it has been twenty-two months since we were married. It has seemed very long, and yet, unbelievably short in duration… the only constant thing about it is that I continue to love and appreciate you more and more each day.” At the time of this writing, her beloved husband was one of more than 4,000 Allied soldiers who had sacrificed their lives on D-Day to secure freedom for generations beyond their own. John Schenk’s story, along with other Bedford soldiers, is recounted in the award winning book The Bedford Boys: One American Town’s Ultimate D-Day Sacrifice by author Alex Kershaw.
The Foundation is delighted to be selected for this preservation initiative conducted by the Virginia Association of Museums. Schenk’s Bible is currently housed in a climate-controlled environment to help protect from further deterioration. “We are concerned with the conservation of this piece and ensuring that it is preserved to tell the story of the Bedford Boys and D-Day for future generations,” Lowrance said.
The Virginia Top 10 Endangered Artifact competition highlights unique artifacts throughout Virginia and the Washington, D.C. area. The program addresses the national recommendations of the Heritage Health Index Report to raise public funding and awareness of the importance of collections care. Visit www.vatop10artifacts.org click "Yes" under National D-Day Memorial, scroll to the bottom, then click "Submit Vote" to vote for John Schenk’s bible. #vatop10
July 30, 2014
Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive Concert at the D-Day Memorial
Though officially celebrated on the second Sunday in August, the National D-Day Memorial will commemorate National Spirit of ’45 Day on Saturday, August 9 at 7pm with a tribute to the Big Band era.
National Spirit of ’45 Day was established by Congress in 2010 to provide an opportunity for Americans to say “Thank You” to those who served in uniform and those who supported them on the Home Front. It is to remind America of the values and accomplishments of the generation who endured the hard times of the Great Depression, fought to defeat the greatest tyranny in history, and then went on to rebuild their shattered world in an unprecedented effort to help assure a better future for both friend and former foe alike. KEEP THE SPIRIT OF ’45 ALIVE! is a non-profit, non-partisan initiative to preserve the legacy of the men and women of the Greatest Generation so that their example of courage, self-sacrifice, “can-do” attitude and commitment to community can help inspire a renewal of national unity in America at a time when our country once again must come together to meet historic challenges.
The National D-Day Memorial’s concert features the “Let’s Dance Band.” The Let’s Dance Band hails from the Smith Mountain Lake area. They have traditionally performed at the Memorial during Memorial day weekend but will bring the Big Band era to life with an evening concert to pay tribute to the men and women of the “Greatest Generation” in support of the Keep the Spirit of ’45 Alive national initiative. The group features vocalists Bob and Libbie Colia.Tickets are $8 per person in advance, $5 for students 6-18, and under 6 are free. Ticket venues are the Foundation office (106 East Main Street, M-F 9-5), the D-Day kiosk in the Bedford Welcome Center (816 Burks Hill Road) or call 540-586-3329 to order your tickets by phone.
Tickets at the door: $10 per person, $8 for students. Please bring your own chair. The Memorial will remain open until 9PM. The rain location is the Bedford Area Family YMCA. This event is generously sponsored by premier sponsor Tharp Funeral Home and Crematory with Weldex as a supporting sponsor.
For more information on this event and others at the National D-Day Memorial, please call 540-586-3329 or visit www.dday.org.
July 22, 2014
Bedford Ruritans Challenge Ruritan Clubs to Support National D-Day Memorial POW/MIA Awareness Event
BEDFORD, Va. In keeping with the slogan of “Fellowship, Goodwill, and Community Service,” the Bedford Ruritan Club has donated $1,000 toward the National D-Day Memorial’s POW/MIA Awareness event slated for Saturday, September 20. The Bedford club is officially challenging other Ruritan clubs to consider a donation to help support this critical awareness event. The funds will help pay for the cost of displaying the Vietnam Traveling Wall at the National D-Day Memorial.
On Saturday, September 20 at 11am, in addition to sponsoring the traveling wall, sponsorship funds will be used to host a moving ceremony to honor those Americans who served our country and are still missing. National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies are now held throughout the nation. Support for these missing Americans and their families is deeply felt. America’s POW/MIAs should be honored and recognized, rather than memorialized, with the focus on the need to account as fully as possible for those still missing, alive or dead. According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, there are over 73,000 U.S. service personnel still unaccounted for from World War II alone and another 1,600 from the Vietnam War.
The Memorial’s ceremony will take place on Saturday, September 20 at 11am.
The Bedford Ruritan Club is the premier sponsor for this event. The Bonsack Blue Ridge Ruritan Club and Natural Bridge District Ruritan have also stepped forward with their support.
Ruritan has a history of a philanthropic partnership with the D-Day Memorial Foundation, raising tens of thousands of dollars over the years in donations from clubs, districts and individuals.
“We are, of course, deeply grateful for the national support Ruritan is giving and continues to give the Memorial,” said April Cheek-Messier, President of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation. “Ruritan support, for this event in particular, means that we can educate others about the critical importance of achieving the fullest possible accounting for Americans still missing. It is our responsibility as American citizens to make every effort to bring them home.”
Bedford Ruritan president Bill Harlor reinforced this when presenting Cheek-Messier with a one thousand dollar donation to the Memorial to support POW/MIA awareness activities taking place in September. “We hope this will be an incentive for other Ruritan clubs to come forward and support this event,” stated Harlor. “We would like to challenge clubs to make a contribution by September 15 so that this project will be funded entirely by Ruritan clubs to show our commitment to our veterans and the need to educate others about POW/MIA issues.”
The traveling wall will be on display Sept. 18th–21st. Ruritan’s sponsorship helps ensure that the Memorial can offer free admission all day on Saturday for the ceremony and the traveling wall exhibit. Gold Star family members are admitted free all weekend. Regular admission fees apply Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.
Ruritan clubs can donate by mailing a contribution directly to: National D-Day Memorial, PO Box 77, Bedford, VA 24523. ATTN: POW/MIA Event. Donations can also be made online at www.dday.org. Please specifiy that the donation is to be used for the POW/MIA event. Visit www.dday.org and click on the events calendar for updated information regarding this event or call 540-586-3329. Ruritan clubs who participate will receive special recognition at the ceremony, on the Memorial’s website, and on programs distributed throughout that weekend.
Bedford, VA - Today thousands of people are making the the trip to Bedford's National D-Day Memorial to remember the 70th anniversary of the invasion.
Posted: Jun 06, 2014 10:22 AM EDT
WSET - Planning for today's event started a little more than a year ago. Crowds started filing into the National D-Day Memorial early this morning.
Among them are dignitaries from around the country, and from allied countries around the world. Representatives from France, Canada, Poland, and the British Embassy joined forces to lay wreaths around the Memorial, honoring D-Day Units. Memorial President April Cheek Messier says that it's an emotional, but exciting day for all in attendance.
"We've planning this for over a year and a half. It's wonderful that our D-Day Veterans have arrived. We have close to 300 D-Day Veterans here in attendance today. They're all excited. What a beautiful day, what a historic occasion this is to have so many D-Day veterans in one place. It's wonderful,” said Cheek-Messier.
Bedford celebates D-Day veterans with patriotic parade
POSTED: 02:13 PM EDT Jun 07, 2014 UPDATED: 07:13 PM EDT Jun 07, 2014
WDBJ7 -American flags of all sizes waved along the streets of Bedford Saturday as a patriotic motorcade made its way through Centertown.
"I thought it was awesome," said Carrie Perry, a Bedford resident who attended Saturday's parade. "I loved seeing the old costumes and the old vehicles restored. I thought it was awesome."
The marching bands and decorated floats attracted crowds from all over the country.
Hope Bradshaw and her husband drove from Suffolk to see Friday's ceremony at the National D-Day Memorial. They stayed an extra night to watch Saturday's parade.
"I wanted to have a chance to talk with some of the World War II veterans and hear their stories," Bradshaw said.
Veterans lined the parade route and even rode through on buses. A grateful community cheered as they passed by.
"I thought this was done very well," said Tim Whalen, a parade spectator from Forest. "I think we need to continue to do this throughout the years, to make sure the country understands the importance of our freedom."
The parade was organized by the National D-Day Memorial, as part of a three-day series of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the Allied landing at Normandy.
"We wanted to pull out all the stops for our veterans and make this an unforgettable time for them," said D-Day Memorial president, April Cheek-Messier. "We also wanted to give the public at large as many opportunities as possible to meet our veterans and say thank you."
More than 300 D-Day veterans came to Bedford for this weekend's commemorations.
Such a large gathering of Normandy survivors may never happen in this town again, which is why so many turned out at this gathering for a final salute.
"For us to be able to celebrate them today was extra special," said Perry.
Remembering D-Day 70 Years Later
The 700 Club commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion that changed the course of history in World War II.
South Florida’s D-Day heroes are scheduled to wing their way Thursday morning to a hamlet in western Virginia as places large and small pause this weekend to honor the historic day that began the end of World War II.
About 70 D-Day veterans are to fly from Palm Beach International Airport to Bedford, Va., home to the National D-Day Memorial, for Friday’s 70th anniversary. The three-day trip goes first to Bedford, then on to Washington D.C., returning to PBIA Saturday night.
This gathering could well be the last for many. Nationwide, the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who served in World War II dwindle on the order of hundreds a day, and most survivors are well into their 90s.
The trip is organized by Southeast Florida Honor Flight, the group that frequently sends a planeload of World War II veterans, at its cost, on a day trip to Washington.
People are urged to welcome the veterans when they return to PBIA about 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Organizers ask people to come about 7:30 p.m. to the U.S. Air welcoming area at Terminal 3. They’re encouraged to wear red, white and blue and bring flags and signs. For information, call 855-359-2838.
Palm Beach Post reporter Eliot Kleinberg and photojournalist Bruce Bennett are on the plane with veterans on the June 5-7 D-Day 70th anniversary Honor Flight. They’ll be reporting, tweeting and sending photographs from Bedford, Va., and from Washington, D.C.
Donated labor helps D-Day Memorial prepare for 70th anniversary
Sprucing up the 88-acre D-Day Memorial is an enormous job that might not have been possible, without the help of generous people in the community
POSTED: 04:27 PM EDT Jun 02, 2014 UPDATED: 06:47 PM EDT Jun 02, 2014
The National D-Day Memorial tells a powerful story in a postcard setting.
"Our goal has always been to make the memorial as ascetically pleasing as possible," said Martin Leamy, site facilities manager for the memorial.
At just 13 years old, the memorial is still a relatively new landmark. Even in that short time, weather has taken a toll.
Crews have been working almost non-stop since last summer to roll back the clock, and make the entire facility look as good as it did in 2001. A large portion of the labor and materials has been donated.
"We probably would not be able to do it otherwise," said memorial president, April Cheek-Messier. "It's just too costly."
Cheek-Messier estimates that local companies and non-profits have given more than $10,000 worth of time and talent in the last year to spruce up the D-Day monument.
"There are so many companies that have reached out to us and asked 'what can we do?'" Cheek-Messier said.
Groups ranging from small businesses to large companies have done everything from power washing concrete to installing new new seats.
Volunteers from New River Electrical repaired and replaced light fixtures.
"We want to support our veterans and honor what they've done," said Terry Garrett, vice president of New River Electrical. "We just feel like it's a worthy cause."
The memorial has just three people on its maintenance staff and only two work full-time. Getting help from the community has made an overwhelming task much easier to complete.
"We want everything to look perfect when our D-Day veterans are here for the 70th anniversary," said Cheek-Messier. "It means a lot that so many people who run our community want the same."
Bedford, Va. keeps the story of D-Day sacrifice alive
A plaque in front of the Bedford County Courthouse in Bedford, Va. honors the local servicemembers who died in the D-Day invasion.
Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes
BEDFORD, Va. — The small boy at the Wal-Mart had to tell somebody about his big day, and he happened to meet Lucille Boggess.
He began recounting his visit to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford: the names on the plaques, the dramatic sculptures, the water jets meant to signify bullets hitting the beach. Boggess listened politely, the story painfully familiar.
"Well," she finally said. "I lost two brothers on D-Day."
She smiles when recalling that conversation. It gives her hope that young people will remember.
"He was just so interested. He might have been in the first grade, but it just made me feel good that a young person like this was so impressed by what he saw there."
She can smile today, but her family and Bedford were never the same after June 6, 1944. The amphibious landing on Normandy beach took a heavy toll, and Bedford suffered the worst proportional loss of any community, losing 19 citizen-soldiers in the initial assault from Company A, 116th Regiment, 29th Infantry Division. Another four Bedford soldiers died later.
Starting Friday, up to 10,000 people are expected to descend on Bedford and its memorial to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day. They'll find a town that hasn't strayed far from its idyllic roots, with a growing arts and crafts scene and live music in local restaurants, where a fire truck extends its ladder to fly a giant American flag to herald the start of Memorial Day weekend, and where an 88-acre memorial at the base of the Blue Ridge mountains overlooks the town and reminds people to never forget a nation's sacrifice.
Among the thousands planning to make the trip will be 250 D-Day veterans from around the country. Organizers have set up oral history stations so the men can tell their stories. As the ranks of the World War II generation dwindle, more attention shifts to keeping the story alive for that 6-year-old boy and those like him.
That task is a labor of love for the families of D-Day veterans who equate that day not only with a military victory, but with a grandfather's hug or a big brother's last smile. The siblings, children and grandchildren of those who landed on the beach in Normandy said their lives were also shaped by what happened on June 6.
Boggess is the National D-Day Foundation's director emeritus and has told her family's heartbreaking story countless times.
Across town, Sarah Yost and Stacey DeMarsh live on farmland purchased in 1938 by twin brothers Roy and Ray Stevens. Both men stormed the beach on June 6, Roy was the only one who made it home. Yost and DeMarsh are his granddaughters.
Today, Yost teaches history to sixth-graders in Bedford and credits "Pop" with inspiring her.
"It's kind of funny because history was one of my worst subjects in high school," she said with a laugh. "But when Pop started talking, I realized that history isn't just something that happened in the past. I realized that every single thing that happened in history is touching families like it touched ours."
News of the June 6th invasion did not reach Bedford until mid-July.
Boggess was 15 years old, a high school sophomore, waiting for news of her two older brothers — Bedford and Raymond Hoback. It was Sunday and the family was preparing to go to church, which was right across the street.
Before they could walk out the door, the sheriff walked up with a telegram. Bedford had been killed in action. The more outgoing and fun-loving of the two brothers, he had been engaged to Elaine Coffey, a local girl.
When the family didn't show up for church, people knew something was wrong, because the Hobacks were regulars. Many in the congregation ended up walking across the street to spend time with the family.
On Monday, the family received a second telegram: Raymond was missing in action.
He was the more religious of the two, a quiet kid who read Scripture and didn't play poker. Some time later, the family received a third delivery. It was the Bible Raymond carried into battle. A soldier from West Virginia spotted it in the sand on Omaha Beach and picked it up so the tide wouldn't wash it away. He found the address of Raymond's parents between the Old and New Testaments.
"My mother always said, next to her son she would have wanted his Bible," Boggess said. "We were really glad. I still treasure it now."
Raymond's body was never found. It was believed he died on the beach and was washed out to sea. Among the sculptures that grace the National D-Day Memorial is one depicting the crumpled body of a soldier with a Bible lying nearby.
In the post-war years, Boggess' mother took an interest in the plight of veterans. She visited the VA hospital in Salem and came home with a new perspective on the horrors of war.
"She would see the men who were severely wounded or maybe didn't know their names," Boggess recalled. "She said there were things worse than death."
Roy and Ray Stevens were two of 14 children, and as twins they were inseparable. Going to war in the same unit as the Hoback brothers, they became sergeants and were assigned to different landing boats before the assault on Omaha Beach.
Ray told his brother he was going to die, but Roy was having none of it. He refused to shake his brother's hand. Granddaughter Sarah Yost recalled the story.
"He told Pop he wasn't going to make it, and Pop said, 'Yes you are. We're going to meet at the crossroads in France and I'll shake your hand there.' That's probably the one thing in life he regretted," she said.
Roy never made it to the beach that first day. His boat sank and he was plucked from the water, unable to swim, and taken back to a ship. He didn't get onto Omaha Beach until a day or two later.
"He already knew that they had gotten wiped out," Yost said. "They were already putting the graves up. The first one he went to was Ray's."
"I hear that and still get chills," DeMarsh said.
Roy came home and returned to the family farm he had purchased with his brother. He remained upbeat and positive about life, and he didn't start sharing his D-Day stories in detail until many years later, when reporters wanted to interview him for the 50th anniversary. When he did, the granddaughters had mixed feelings about hearing it.
"I really didn't want to know," DeMarsh said. "The person I knew had a wonderful life and everything was grand. I really didn't want to know he had to deal with all that."
As Yost teaches history today, she does so with an eye toward her own family's experience.
"I started not only looking at the facts of it. What were the families thinking? That's kind of how we teach you now. You need to stop and think. If you're Teddy Roosevelt's family and he's going off in the Rough Riders, how are you feeling? What are you thinking? Are you worried? He's not in our country anymore. I think Pop telling his story affected me, in that history is not just a bunch of boring facts."
Shaped by war
As Bedford prepares to welcome people from around the country, the president of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation is optimistic that today's younger generation appreciates the sacrifices of Bedford and Raymond Hoback, and Roy and Ray Stevens. That's because today's young generation has also been shaped by war.
April Cheek-Messier, the foundation president, tells a story similar to Boggess' — about a 12-year-old boy who was so moved by his visit to the memorial that he donated $115 he'd been saving for Christmas presents.
Connecting with kids, she said, "is not as difficult as one would think."
Cheek-Messier said more people are coming forward with artifacts and family treasures that tell the story of that day.
"A lot of young people have mothers, fathers, uncles, brothers and sisters who are serving today," she said. "They understand what the sacrifice means because they've experienced it in their own households."
Have you visited the National D-Day Memorial?
Help the National D-Day Memorial by nominating us as a Blue Star Museum! With your help we can spread the word about Bedford, Virginia—the town suffering the highest per capita D-Day losses in the nation—the "Greatest Generation" and the sacrifices that were made during WWII. Follow the link below for details!
How do I make the nomination?
Just send an e-mail to Rebecca at grossr[AT]arts[DOT]gov with:
· SUBJECT LINE: Blue Star Nomination
· Your name and the name of your community
· The name of the museum you’re nominating and its website URL
· Your favorite thing to see or do at the museum
· Why you think this museum deserves to be in the spotlight (up to 100 words)
The National D-Day Memorial participates in the Blue Star Museum Program
Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 2,000 museums across America. First launched in the summer of 2010, Blue Star Museums offers free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day, May 27, through Labor Day, September 2, 2013.
Leadership support has been provided by MetLife Foundation through Blue Star Families. The complete list of participating museums is available at www.arts.gov/bluestarmuseum.
“Blue Star Museums may be the program at the NEA of which I am proudest,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. “Blue Star Museums recognizes and thanks our military families for all they are doing for our country, and simultaneously begins young people on a path to becoming life-long museum goers.”
About Blue Star Museums
The Blue Star Museums Partnership goes from Memorial Day, May 27 through Labor Day, September 2, 2013. Active duty military (with military ID) and up to five immediate family members receive free admission during this time. Active duty military also includes active duty Reserve and active duty National Guard members. Some special or limited-time museum exhibits may not be included in this free admission program. To see which museums are participating, visit www.arts.gov/bluestarmuseums. The site includes a list of participating museums and a map to help with planning a visit.
Local Participating Museums
Please see the individual museum’s website for more information on planning your visit.
D-Day broadcast named to National Recording Registry
George Hicks observed the allied assault from the deck of a U.S. Navy ship
March 24, 2013|Joe Dashiell | Reporter
BEDFORD, Va. — The Library of Congress has added two dozen important recordings to its national registry. Most are musical selections, including songs by Chubby Checker, the Bee Gees and Simon and Garfunkel, but one is a news broadcast with a tie to western Virginia, a first-hand account of the D-Day invasion.
"And we're lying some few miles off the coast of France, where the invasion of Europe has begun," George Hicks said as he began recording his observations of the Allied assault.
"Our bombardment fleet lying out beside us has begun to flash the shore line," he said. "And we can see the vivid yellow bursts of fire... and at the same time from the shore answering yellow flashes as the Nazi batteries are replying."
Hicks first-person account wasn't broadcast live. The invasion was still a secret when he started recording, but it played on U.S. radio networks later that night.
April Cheek-Messier is the co-director of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. "You can even hear the gunfire in the distance you know, what's going on around George Hicks as he's reporting what he's saying," she said, "and it's overwhelming in a sense, because you know this is the largest invasion in history."
Cheek-Messier says the Hicks recording is an important tool historians will need to teach future generations about a pivotal moment in world history. She says she was delighted the Library of Congress has decided to preserve it.
Lynchburg, VA - Friday was a very special day for one family at the D-Day Memorial in Bedford. The Haynes family gathered to receive medals a loved one earned many years ago
This story begins nearly 70 years ago. Private First Class Alonzo Haynes had always dreamed of serving his country. But one early morning, in 1944, Alonzo's brother, Tollie Haynes, received the letter every Military family dreads.
"It is with regret that I am writing to confirm the recent telegram informing you of the death of your son, Private First Class Alonzo Haynes, who was killed in action on August 22nd, 1944 in Italy," said Tollie Haynes, as he read from the letter hit mother received.
Almost seven decades after reading that letter for the first time, Tollie Haynes realized his brother, Alonzo, earned medals, he never received. That spurred him to write a letter of his own.
"Dear Sir, I respectively request your assistance in the following matter. I am writing to you about my brother, Alonzo Haynes. I thought our mother, Hessie Haynes, had received all of his medals, but apparently not," said Haynes, as he read from a letter he wrote to Senator Warner.
Almost 2 months to the day after that letter was penned, a representative from Senator Warner's office hand delivered a letter from the Senator himself.
"On behalf of all Virginians and Americans, I am gratified knowing that your family will now receive the medals and commendations that which your brother is entitled," said Lou Kadiri, Constituent Services Director for Mark Warner's Office.
And with that letter, 2 precious medals, Alonzo Haynes never lived to see.
"I am so honored to get these medals, I appreciate you guys and Senator Warner's staff for getting them for me. I'll never forget him, it touches my heart, It means a great deal, just like part of him came back," said Tollie Haynes.
Alonzo's family received Alonzo's Bronze Star and Purple Heart Medal.
Alonzo Haynes was one of 18 children. He had 11 sisters and 6 brothers. Three of Alonzo's brothers also served in World War II, including Tollie.
In an effort to give lasting tributes to those who have served in the Armed Forces, the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford recently has started a Veterans’ brick campaign.
Friends and family can have the opportunity to honor their loved ones by sponsoring an engraved brick that would be placed in two gardens on the memorial site that were each dedicated on Veteran’s Day in 2009. That would allow them to be seen by thousands of visitors who flock each year to the site visible from U.S. 460 in the city of Bedford.
“Each brick is not only an investment in the legacy of a loved one, but also serves as an investment into the future of the memorial,” said Jeffrey Fulgham, co-president of the memorial foundation, in a news release.
The bricks placed in the memorial’s Blue Star Garden on the west side of the grounds can be sponsored in honor or in memory of those who have served their country. On the east side of the grounds in the Gold Star Garden, bricks can be sponsored in memory of those who gave their lives in service to the United States of America.
A limited number of bricks, which can be placed at a cost of $250 each, are available in each garden. The foundation notes that sponsorship gifts are completely tax deductible and more than 200 have been sold with plans under way to install the first group this spring.
For more information, call (540) 586-3329.
D-Day veterans share wartime stories at event in Bedford
At an event in Bedford Tuesday, four D-Day veterans shared accounts of the invasion that liberated France during World War II
Tim SaundersReporter/Lynchburg Bureau Chief
5:05 p.m. EST, February 12, 2013
Dozens of people crowded into the Bedford Welcome Center Tuesday, to hear from a distinguished panel of speakers.
"I feel this is living history in the making," said Katrina D'Inzillo, a Smith Mountain Lake resident who attended the event. "You can't help but sit there with tears in your eyes when you listen to the stories."
The National D-Day Memorial hosted a discussion Tuesday afternoon with four veterans of D-Day, the invasion that liberated France during World War II. The guests of honor shared first person accounts of what they experienced.
"It just brings back memories," said Charles "Buster" Shaeff, who ferried boatloads of troops to the beaches of Normandy as a young sailor.
"It was quite an exciting time, to say the least," Shaeff said.
It was also a time of close calls.
"We got entangled, going round and round," explained Bill Overstreet, who served as a pilot in the United States Air Force.
Overstreet engaged a German fighter in a daring chase that led both of their planes under the Eiffel Tower.
"From being under there, I was able to get some good, solid hits and he crashed a couple blocks away," Overstreet said.
Evelyn Kowalchuk spent a lot of time in planes, too. She was a pioneer in medicine, serving as one of the first flight nurses in the United States military.
"If those boys volunteered to take care of our democracy and freedom, the least we could do was to take care of them and we did," said Kowalchuk.
The stories shared Tuesday are hard to come by. Only a fraction of the people who experienced D-Day are still alive to talk about it today.
Bedford, VA - It's been nearly seven decades since D-Day. As the years pass, first-hand accounts of the day that changed the course of history are getting harder to come by.
A special event in at the D-Day Memorial in Bedford Tuesday highlighted four stories from living Veterans.
It would be nearly impossible for Bill Oversteet, and three fellow D-Day veterans to forget what happened so many years ago.
"I remember D-Day well," Overstreet said.
Overstreet spent 8 long hours over Normandy that day as a pilot in the Army's 357th Fighter Group.
"We were able to take off in zero visibility and it stayed that way until we cleared over 20,000 feet."
When the USS Arkansas took position off Omaha Beach, Carter Fisher was waiting on board.
"We went into Omaha Beach at 2 o'clock in the morning and we set there until 5 before they started letting us fire and you talking about a long three hours to wait that was," Fisher said.
Charles "Buster" Shaeff would ferry three boatloads of servicemen to the beach that day.
"When they dropped anchor at 3 o'clock D-Day morning, they dropped the boats in the water and we went to work," Shaeff said.
Evelyn "Chappy" Kowalchuk found herself on the beaches three days later, one of only 500 flight nurses during the war.
"When we got those boys on the plane, we had the worst shock We had nurses that were training in New York and California. They had never, never seen the injuries and the blood and the pain these boys were going through," Kowalchuk said.
What the four living American heroes went through is not to be forgotten.
A quality that was not lost in a room at the D-Day Memorial, as roughly one hundred people stood to applaud.
Unfortunately ,the tragedy of war was not left on the beaches of Normandy.
Kowalchuk says of the 25 flight nurses in her unit, three would eventually commit suicide after returning home. Kowalchuk says she probably won't be able to fall asleep tonight, with all of the memories going through her mind.
Did you know?
You can allocate a portion of your Virginia income tax refund to go to the National D-Day Memorial? The National D-Day Memorial Foundation, in partnership with the Virginia War Memorial, can be selected to receive a portion of your tax refund or you can add a donation - of which both foundations benefit equally. Consult your tax advisor or preparer for more details.
Bedford's D-Day Memorial now offering virtual field trips
The program was developed to share the memorial with students who can't afford to visit the Bedford landmark
Tim SaundersReporter/Lynchburg Bureau Chief
6:09 p.m. EST, January 28, 2013
BEDFORD, Va.—When kids visit the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, they learn what it was like to be a soldier during World War II.
It's a lesson that's now being shared from a distance.
"We wanted to reach out to a broader scope of students," said April Cheek-Messier, Co-President of the National D-Day Memorial.
Memorial leaders have spent the last few years looking for ways to address sagging attendance numbers. They've seen fewer field trips at the site, due to the struggling economy.
One solution officials have developed is to take the memorial directly to students where they live. As part of a new program, any classroom with Internet access can get a lecture from the D-Day Memorial staff.
"We felt it was really important to not only reach out to students who could no longer physically visit the memorial, but also reach students who geographically can not come to the memorial," said Cheek-Messier.
The memorial is partnering with Central Virginia Community College. They've turned a small classroom at CVCC's Bedford Center into a studio, where lectures are transmitted to students across the globe.
"It will be just like I'm in the classroom with them. We come in through a web program. I'm there teaching on a big screen," said Felicia Lowrance, an education coordinator for the D-Day Memorial who presents the online lectures.
Using cameras and internet technology, students get an up-close look at artifacts and documents.
"It really helps bring it to life and a whole other dimension, taking it out of the history books," Lowrance said.
"For teachers in Virginia, this is an SOL-based program that fits right into their standards for World War II history," said Megan Wingfield, education program manager for the D-Day Memorial.
By advertising in classrooms far from Bedford, the program could boost attendance at the memorial.
"We hope, as they often do when they physically come to the site, that they will go home and tell their parents about it, and then we do see a lot of visits as a result of that," said Cheek-Messier.
Teachers who want to book one of the online lectures will have to pay $125, but memorial leaders say that fee is a lot smaller than cost of most field trips. There is a reduced price for educators and schools who order multiple lessons.
Bedford, VA - A blast to the past Saturday night at the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, as the band Letter's From Home sang hits from the 1940's.
More than 300 people came out Saturday to hear music from the 40's. Families spread all over the memorial to hear music that took them back more than seven decades.
The D-Day Memorial staff says the purpose of Saturday's concert is the same as the purpose of the entire D-Day Memorial, to tell a story to remember the men and women who served on D-Day. They say it's important to remember the part those men and women played in our American History.
The group, Letters From Home, has been touring the country for about two years now. They say the biggest joy for them is meeting people that fought for our freedom.
"Some World War II Veterans that are here tonight have stories that will give you goosebumps. It was such a great time, the 1940's was, even though it was a time of war, it was a time where everyone just came together and these men really are the greatest generation," said Erinn Diaz, who is a member of Letters From Home.
Seven people in attendance tonight were World War II Veterans. Some said it means a lot to hear live music representing a period in their lives that changed them forever.
"It brings back memories over a period of time, because a lot of the stuff I had put very far back in my mind and just didn't think about it," said Charles Shaeff, who is a D-Day Veteran.
The Operations Manager with the D-Day Memorial says he hopes to bring more concerts that are reflective of the 1940's, but at this time there are no other events like that planned.
John Robert Slaughter
3 Feb 1925 – 29 May 2012
Chairman of the Board (1994-2001)
National D-Day Memorial Mourns Founder’s Passing
The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is deeply saddened by the death of our dear friend and founder John Robert Slaughter. Bob brought the same energy, tenacity, and drive to the creation of the D-Day Memorial that he displayed 68 years ago on Omaha Beach, and throughout the war.
Bob Slaughter entered the service in 1940 at the tender age of 15 (after convincing his parents that he wanted to join the National Guard and earn extra money for household expenses). By the age of 19, he found himself engaged in the largest amphibious assault in history on the beaches of Normandy, France. Bob served with Company D, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division. Company D was a heavy weapons company that supported rifle companies in combat. Slaughter was wounded twice while in France and was discharged in July 1945 at which point he returned to his home in Roanoke, Virginia. He married in 1947, and he and his wife Margaret had two children. Over the years, however, memories of what took place on that stretch of sand in Normandy continued to haunt him.
In 1987, Bob Slaughter declared “We have no gathering place, no meeting hall, no memorial, where our country can collect its memories and the lessons we learned from D-Day.” Shortly thereafter, Slaughter, along with several other supporters, formed a committee to raise money and search for an appropriate location for a small memorial.
After visiting Normandy on several occasions, the vision for a memorial took shape and in 1989, Slaughter’s small committee introduced a seventeen-member board of directors. The committee faced a series of challenges and a discouraged board was near disbandment when a resurgence of interest in D-Day, due to the 50th anniversary in 1994, led to increased publicity and new momentum.
Shortly thereafter, Bedford City officials donated eleven acres of land to the D-Day Foundation for the site of the proposed memorial and an additional seventy-seven acres was purchased by the Foundation to protect the site from further development.
Mr. Slaughter served as the Foundation’s Chairman from 1994-2001. Congress also adopted legislation designating the site a national memorial in 1994. The Foundation hired its first employee in 1996 and the Memorial was officially dedicated by President George W. Bush on 6 June 2001.
In 2007, Bob authored Omaha Beach and Beyond, an auto-biography, chronicling his wartime experience and the creation of the Memorial.
In 2008, The John Robert Slaughter Youth Learning Center was dedicated at the Memorial. That area has always been and continues to be the hub of the Foundation’s education initiatives. Last year the Foundation celebrated Bob’s achievements by welcoming him as Director Emeritus.
Bob Slaughter was a very special man and one who was respected and admired. In his book in 2007, Bob noted “Now that I am in my eighties, I am well aware that the long march that began so many years ago is about to come to a halt. I am proud to say my generation helped save the world from tyranny, prevent the extinction of an entire group of people, and preserve the democratic freedoms of our wonderful American way of life. I wouldn’t change a thing, except to wish that my dear army buddies could be here to see and touch the magnificent National D-Day Memorial that was built for us all.”
While Bob will be deeply missed, his legacy is preserved in perpetuity at the National D-Day Memorial. The Foundation Board, volunteers and staff extend their deep and heartfelt condolences to Bob’s family and his many, many friends.
One Sailor’s D-Day Story Comes to a Close
For over eight years, Eric Montgomery has been on a mission to close the final chapter of his great uncle Amin Isbir’s D-Day story. Coxswain Amin Isbir, a member of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion, was reported killed in action on June 8, 1944. His great nephew, Eric Montgomery questioned his date of death believing that he had been killed in action on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Isbir’s commanding officer, Ensign Joe Vaghi, confirmed Montgomery’s suspicions.
Onboard Coast Guard operated LCI-L 88, Amin and his Company C8 shipmates were being transported along with members of the 5th Engineers Special Brigade and 1st Infantry Division soldiers to the Easy Red One sector of Omaha Beach. During the landing, the ship came under heavy fire, losing one of its two ramps along with a number of the soldiers from the Big Red One. Once the surviving solders were unloaded, Beachmaster Vaghi and Isbir hit the sand. As they were helping a wounded soldier onto a stretcher, a German railway gun from 5 miles away landed a shell onto the beach hurling a jeep high into the air. The jeep landed on Isbir killing him instantly. Ensign Vaghi was knocked unconscious from the blast. Due to continued hostilities, Isbir’s body was not recovered until two days later and the Navy listed his date of death as June 8, 1944. Isbir was posthumously awarded the French Croix de Guerre for bravery and the Purple Heart.
Isbir’s tombstone in the Normandy American Cemetery listed his date of death as June 8. Since the Navy recorded his date of death as June 8, the National D-Day Memorial Foundation did not include him on the Memorial Wall after its initial research (as the Foundation only researched and recorded June 6 fatalities). In 2009, 65 years after Isbir’s death, Montgomery was successful in getting the Normandy American Cemetery to replace the June 8 tombstone with a corrected one. The plaque containing the addition of Isbir’s name will be officially dedicated to the Memorial Wall at the National D-Day Memorial during the D-Day commemoration ceremony. The National D-Day Memorial has confirmed 4,413 Allied fatalities on June 6. Of that number, 2,499 were Americans. The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is the only institution in the world to research the name of every soldier, sailor, airman, and coast guardsman killed on June 6, 1944.
During the ceremony, the Memorial will also recognize members of the 101st Airborne Division who are commemorating their 70th anniversary this year. The 101st will participate with an Honor Guard and with a wreath laying at the event. Members of the 29th Infantry Division will also participate. Special music will be provided by the Enduring Freedom Honor Team from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Tours will be provided throughout the day. Admission is free until noon. Regular admission fees apply after noon. Guests are encouraged to bring a chair to the event. Special seating and shade will be provided to World War II veterans.
For more information about the D-Day ceremony, please visit www.dday.org or call 540-586-DDAY.
Remembering Their Sacrifice
Monday, May 28, 2012
Over 1 million Americans have given their lives in defense of liberty at home and abroad since this country's founding. On Monday, May 28 at 11AM, join the National D-Day Memorial for "Remembering Their Sacrifice," a moving program that will pay tribute to those who have given the last full measure in defense of liberty.
Program highlights include special music by the Bonsack Baptist Choir. Over 60 members of the adult choir of Bonsack Baptist Church, under the direction of Barry Green, will perform. Green has served as Minister of Music at Bonsack Baptist for over 15 years. Among the choir's many accomplishments was a performance at Carnegie Hall in 2008.
Additionally, a new narrative plaque commemorating the role of flight nurses during World War II will be dedicated during the event. Congressman Robert Hurt will honor 1st Lt. Evelyn "Chappy" Kowalchuk who served with the 818th MAETS and evacuated wounded soldiers from Omaha Beach on D+3. The importance of flight nurses to the wounded soldiers they evacuated and cared for cannot be overstated. They tended, comforted, treated, kept alive, mothered, and anointed their charges with tears they masked with their unstinting valor, fidelity, and sacrifice. Until war's end, they continued to serve in all embattled theaters, and they did so with distinction. It is a testament to their training and dedication that of the 1,176,048 patients air evacuated during the war, only 46 died en route. When recalling her experience, Kowalchuk noted that "my C-47 landed on Omaha Beach. Although a number of planes were shot down, that particular danger was not very worrisome at the time. Our real concern was to get the wounded boys on the planes and to a hospital." Seventeen flight nurses gave their lives during the war.
The ceremony on Memorial Day will pay tribute to the fallen with a wreathlaying, guest speakers, special music, and a Marine Corps Color Guard. Guests are encouraged to bring a chair and your family, and help keep the "memorial" in Memorial Day. Admission is free until noon. For more information, call (540) 586-3329 or visit www.dday.org.
Three Lynchburg Area Museums to Participate as “Blue Star Museums” This Summer
They join more than 1,500 museums in offering free admission
to military personnel and their families from Memorial Day to Labor Day
Today Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, The Lynchburg Museum System, and the National D Day Memorial announced the launch of Blue Star Museums, a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 1,500 museums across America to offer free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day 2012.
Leadership support has been provided by MetLife Foundation through Blue Star Families. The complete list of participating museums is available at www.arts.gov/bluestarmuseum.
“Blue Star Museums may be the program at the NEA of which I am proudest,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. “Blue Star Museums recognizes and thanks our military families for all they are doing for our country, and simultaneously begins young people on a path to becoming life-long museum goers.”
About Blue Star Museums
The Blue Star Museums Partnership goes from Memorial Day, May 28 through Labor Day, September 3, 2012. Active duty military (with military ID) and up to five immediate family members receive free admission during this time. Active duty military also includes active duty Reserve and active duty National Guard members. Some special or limited-time museum exhibits may not be included in this free admission program. To see which museums are participating, visit www.arts.gov/bluestarmuseums. The site includes a list of participating museums and a map to help with planning a visit.
Local Participating Museums
Please see the individual museum’s website for more information on planning your visit.
ROANOKE, Va—In a matter of weeks, we could have a better idea whether the National Park Service plans to make the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford a national monument.
It's no secret the memorial has struggled financially the last few years and now it's about to get some help from a group of college students.
The youngest generation is singing their hearts out to honor the greatest generation.
"They're tremendous. It's intimidating to look at what they've accomplished," Roanoke College Senior Johnny Camacho.
An accomplishment, commitment, and sacrifice that's showcased at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford.
Now the Roanoke College choir will do its part, holding a benefit concert to raise money for this place of remembrance.
"As the years go by, as we all know, we're losing more and more of those folks and as history seems to fade a little bit I think it's very important for our kids to have that connection," said Roanoke College Choir Director Jeff Sandberg.
These college studentsare well aware of the thousands of lives lost on that awful day some 67 years ago.
That's why it is such a privilege for them to use their god given talent to help.
"I really hope this show we still care and I know that we have that stigma of being a crazy generation who just wants to party but it's still important that we support who got us where we are today," said Roanoke College Junior Colleen Hayes.
So maybe it's only appropriate the Memorial plans to use the money raised to enhance technology, to bring the Memorial to a generation that's used to Facebook and Twitter.
Those who run the D-Day Memorial say what these college students are doing will help keep this sacred place up and running for future generations.
"What the veterans really want to see and they tell me all the time especially the World War II vets and D-Day vets, they say what's really important to me is I really would like to not have to worry about this place. They want to go in peace and not worry about this memorial," said Jeffrey Fulgham of the D-Day Memorial.
The benefit concert takes place Friday night at St. Andrews Church in Roanoke. It begins at 7:30.
An offering will be taken and all the money will be given to the D-Day Memorial.
When the choir held a similar concert four years ago, the students raised $2,600.
National D-Day Memorial and Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest Launch Joint Ticket Initiative
The National D-Day Memorial and Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest have partnered to create a joint ticket that allows visitors the option of purchasing a single ticket that is valid for a visit to each site at a 30% discount from normal admission fees. The ticket includes a guided tour of each attraction as well as a one-time discount in gift stores at Poplar Forest, the National D-Day Memorial, and the Bedford Welcome Center. Sergei Troubetzkoy, Director of Tourism for Bedford is particularly pleased with the project. "This is a wonderful cooperative effort that will greatly benefit tourism development efforts for Bedford. In the current economy, many visitors are seeking ways to stretch their dollars and this effort should help them save money and will encourage them to spend more time in our community. A win-win for everyone!"
April Cheek-Messier, Vice President for Operations and Education of the National D-Day Memorial notes that the partnership is “a wonderful way to support one another and to increase tourism in our area. Visitors have the added bonus of learning about two significant periods in our history.” Poplar Forest’s president Lynn Beebe added that “a joint ticket for Poplar Forest and D-Day makes sense. It is a benefit for all visitors with a passion for history. It has been said that these two sites can deepen perspective on the history of democracy—the ideas behind it and the sacrifice that can be necessary to ensure it. This joint ticket can help attract increased numbers of history-minded travelers into Central Virginia.”
The combo ticket goes on sale May 1 and can be purchased at the Bedford Area Welcome Center where National D-Day Memorial tickets are sold or in the Admissions/Museum Shop at Poplar Forest. The ticket is valid for one year from the date of purchase but is not valid during select special events. Visitors are encouraged to check the schedule and operating hours of each attraction before purchasing their ticket. For additional questions regarding the joint ticket, visitors can call the Bedford Area Welcome Center at 540-587-5681.
World War II Comes to Life at the National D-Day Memorial
Saturday, April 28 - 10AM - 5PM
On Saturday, April 28th historical interpreters with the 29th Living History Association and the 82nd Airborne will turn out in full battle gear to show the public what soldiers did, carried, and thought about to prepare for the invasion of Europe. Visitors can view WWII era German artifacts, attend a briefing on the invasion, examine weapons and equipment, walk inside a period command tent, learn about the life of a medic by viewing period artifacts, meet WWII veterans, see WWII radio controlled airplanes on display, and watch a WWII model train demonstration. Visitors will also discover what life was like on the homefront by listening to a Rosie the Riveter interpreter as she discusses shortages and sacrifices at home in America during the war. Tours are offered throughout the day and a food vendor will be on site.
The Memorial is offering a special discount for homeschool families who wish to participate in the Homeschool Event Day portion of the event. Pre-registration is required. Homeschool families who wish to take part should call 540-587-3617 to register.
The National D-Day Memorial's living history event is scheduled for Saturday, April 28th from 10am to 5pm. Regular fees apply. For more information, call (540) 586-3329 or visit www.dday.org.
Volunteer Efforts at the Memorial
On Saturday, March 10th approximately 130 youth and adult volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints completed one of their two annual community service projects at the Memorial site. Individual churches represented were from Bedford, Salem, Roanoke, Cave Spring, Back Creek, Rocky Mount, Martinsville and Vinton. Collectively each of these units is part of the "Roanoke Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints". The volunteers completed approximately 260 man-hours of work on the grounds. Tasks they completed included weeding, washing tour carts, filling luminary sandbags (approximately 2000) and general area beautification. In addition, the volunteers raked 38 fifty-five gallon bags full of leaves from underneath shrubs. Following completion of the project, the group relaxed on the deck with a hot dog lunch. One of the group’s adult leaders, Ian Hensley, said that the volunteers had a great time at the Memorial. The group plans to schedule some extra time during their next visit that will allow them to take a tour of the Site following the completion of work.
Vice President for Operations and Education, April Cheek-Messier said “We are so grateful to these young people and to the adults who helped organize such a dedicated group of volunteers. It is through volunteer efforts such as this that makes this site so beautiful. Their donation of time has helped ensure the best possible experience for our visitors and veterans. We cannot thank them enough.”
April Cheek-Messier, Vice President for Operations and Education, of the National D-Day Memorial accepts a $250 donation from Charles Oliver, local chairman of the Elks National Foundation.
For the second year in a row, Bedford Elks Lodge 2844 will sponsor the Memorial’s “Growing Up in WWII Day Camp” held each summer. This year’s camp takes place June 27-29 at the Memorial. Registration begins May 1.
Members of the Virginia Fraternal Alliance present $4,400 to the Memorial. Pictured L to R. Davis Dowdy, Board of Directors, VFA; Scott Koebel, President of VFA; April Cheek-Messier, Vice President for Operations and Education, National D-Day Memorial; Terry Carroll, Board of Directors, VFA.
In 2010, the Memorial faced criticism from some opponents who felt the inclusion of Stalin in the political leaders display was inappropriate. Misconceptions regarding that exhibit are addressed here.
President of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation Addresses Misconceptions about the Allied Political Leaders Display
The Memorial is honoring or intended to honor Stalin with the placement of a bust.
The Foundation would never seek to “honor” such an individual. The interpretative plaque accompanying the Stalin bust clearly acknowledges his crimes against humanity. Illuminating Stalin’s role in the planning of Operation Overlord is not to “honor” him as a person, but to recognize him and his country in a coalition effort to win the war. D-Day after all was multinational in scope. To be good stewards of history, the Foundation is charged with telling the full story. History is a “messy business” and too often, is sanitized, highlighting only what we wish to remember. By not acknowledging Stalin as an ally, as some would have us do, we erase an important part of history and do an injustice to future generations who attempt to learn from the past.
Stalin had nothing to do with D-Day.
Stalin had a great deal to do with the Invasion. Stalin had been pushing for the opening of a second front since the summer of 1941. During the 1943 Teheran Conference he was determined to make Operation Overlord the focus of their talks. The “Big Three” (Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin) spent the majority of their time discussing when and where that effort should commence. Teheran marked a turning point in the war. It was the Invasion plan (D-Day/Overlord) that completely sealed their alliance. Stalin made clear that the Invasion of Western Europe had to be the primary military focus in 1944. There would not have been a D-Day without this political component.
Bagration also clearly demonstrates Stalin’s response to the coalition. In April 1944, the Soviets were informed that the landing was taking place in June. The Allies pressed the Soviets for actions that would further relieve pressure in the West. The Soviets embarked on the Belorussian Operation which in effect destroyed seventeen German divisions and three brigades while inflicting heavy losses on fifty other German divisions. By tying up these troops, the allies were successful in moving inland in the weeks following the invasion. On September 27, 1944 Churchill wrote to Stalin and noted that he would let it be known in the House of Commons “that it is the Russian Army that tore the guts out of the German military machine.”
This is the D-Day Memorial not the World War II Memorial.
To say that the Memorial should only address June 6, 1944 is to deny the efforts on the home front and would ignore the success of the troops as they fought their way through Europe as a direct result of Overlord. The Foundation stands firm in its resolve to tell the full and accurate story of not just June 6, 1944, but what made it possible, how it was planned, and what occurred in post-history because of it. The Invasion of Normandy was global in its impact and it had many stakeholders around the world. Simply put, D-Day did not happen in a vacuum.
The Memorial is proud to teach students and adults of all ages about D-Day and on a larger scale about the history of the war. In just ten years, the Memorial has seen more than one million visitors, educated more than 100,000 school students from throughout the country, hosted more than 150 commemorative programs and events (including lectures on World War II), recorded hundreds of oral histories, amassed a significant collection of artifacts for the future education center, and has given thousands of tours to guests from throughout the country and world, while educating them about World War II and the history of the invasion.
Including Stalin at the Memorial has nothing to do with the Foundation’s mission of honoring the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Forces on D-Day.
Fact: The Foundation firmly believes it has always honored the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied forces as witnessed by the support of our World War II veterans. However, the second part to the Foundation’s mission remains to “preserve the lessons and legacy of D-Day.” D-Day encapsulated much more than the landing on June 6. There was a legacy that followed. To ignore the developments that occurred in the years after the invasion, and because of the invasion’s success, is to dishonor those who fought and died on the beaches that day. Their legacy is much larger than the events of June 6.
Critics claim that the decision to take down the Stalin bust indicates that the Foundation acknowledges it made a mistake by installing it.
The Foundation removed the bust temporarily in order to incorporate it into an Allied leader’s display. The Foundation felt that an Allied leader’s exhibit could better outline the relationships between the leaders, particularly FDR, Churchill, and Stalin. There are in fact, two distinct stories at the Memorial. One story presents the military aspects of D-Day and specifically honors the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Merchant Mariners who participated in the Invasion. The other is the Allied political contribution to that story. To highlight both stories, the Foundation will move the four Allied leaders “off the circle” within the main grounds and reincorporate them into one location on site separate from the soldier’s story. By having an “Allied Leaders” section at the Memorial, future generations can learn about the history of diplomacy and the strange and disturbing allies we sometimes make. Future education programs will address the consequences for allying ourselves with someone like Stalin. By having an exhibit that includes Stalin, we can more effectively address his crimes against humanity and his role in starting the Cold War. Indeed, history is not always pretty, but there is much we can learn from it.
Several of the designs have the Allied leaders’ located on “Stettinius Parade,” but no final design has been approved. The schedule of the new interpretative section installation is planned for late spring or early summer. **
A last-minute plaque was added noting Stalin’s crimes as well as his role as a WWII ally.
These accounts reported in some news outlets were completely false. The plaque always has accompanied the Stalin bust. (A copy of this plaque is attached.) **
All the Foundation’s intentions are focused on the Allied Leaders exhibit, to the exclusion of other components and stories that should be developed at the Memorial.
The Foundation is working on many projects at this time. Some examples are: flight nurses, military police, NATO, mulberries, Lend Lease, 9th U.S. Air Force, and a special recognition of the Merchant Marines and Naval Armed Guard the weekend of Maritime Day.
The controversy surrounding the Stalin Bust has hurt support for the Foundation.
There is no denial that the controversy has caused certain special interest groups and important individuals (on both sides) to end their support. On the other hand, it has rallied many of our significant donors, created new ones and generated renewed interest in the Memorial. In conclusion, the board of trustees and staff take the various viewpoints of our veterans, members, special interest groups and the general public very seriously. After listening, we have concluded that the majority opinion is that the expansion of the interpretation at the Memorial is a positive direction. We believe that the creation of a separate political leaders section is a responsible direction and makes for a more complete story at the Memorial. With all due respect to those who disagree, we hope that this approach will pave the way for supporters and critics alike to join together to make the Memorial the best it can be and to allow it to remain a poignant asset for the community, the nation, and most of all its World War II veterans.
Robin Edward Reed
Text of the Stalin Plaque:
Joseph Stalin 21 December 1879 — 5 March 1953 General Secretary of the Communist Party
In 1922, Joseph Stalin became General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and spent the next seven years eliminating fellow revolutionaries. He next eliminated prosperous peasant farmers (Kulaks) as a class by displacing them to proto-gulags, thus precipitating famines that killed untold millions. Stalin’s “Great Terror” (1934-38) tried 50 million Soviet citizens; some 20 million were sent to gulags or executed. He also dispatched police (NKVD) to Mongolia, where tens of thousands died as “Japanese spies.” After entering a nonaggression pact with Hitler in 1939, Stalin invaded Poland, Finland, the Baltics, Bessarabia, and northern Bukovina. Between 1939 and 1949, he deported millions of Ukrainians, Poles, Koreans, Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Karachays, Meskhetian Turks, Finns, Bulgarians, Greeks, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, and Jews.
When Hitler invaded Russia on 21 June 1941, Stalin turned West for help. To keep Hitler busy in the East, Churchill and Roosevelt gave it. An epigram penned by a wag in Britain’s Crown Film Unit exudes grim irony: “Once the Kremlin / Set us tremlin: / Now we’ve a pal in / Stalin.” Stalin repulsed Hitler at the Battle of Stalingrad then went on the offensive. At the Tehran Conference (November 1943), he influenced D-Day’s date and place, reset the borders of Poland, secured a carte blanche at home, and arranged to set up communist governments in Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Baltics, and Romania.
In memory of the tens of millions who died under Stalin’s rule and in tribute to all whose valor, fidelity, and sacrifice denied him and his successors victory in the Cold War.