Monday, November 3, 2008

The Bedford Boys

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
—George Santayana

As we face the election of a new president tomorrow it is very fitting that we take a look at the past. This past weekend we went to the National D-Day Memorial and found a memorial to the men and women of not only our nation, but of many nations that we fought with against evil. The people who fought this war and the people who supported them paid a very heavy price for freedom, perhaps higher that what our soldiers have paid in our war against terrorism.

"The Final Tribute"
The decisive battle that would end Hitler's dream of Nazi domination came at a great cost. The war turned on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The military operation was named Overlord and would entail more than 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes and more than 150,000 service men. The men would have to disembark from plywood boats holding 30–50 soldiers and then cross beaches with no cover for 200 yards before receiving any protection, while carrying up to eighty pounds of equipment. When it was over, the Allied Forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties; more than 4,000 were dead. But, the cost could have been so much greater.

First, if nothing had been done due to fear of the cost (both financially or in terms of human cost), and second, if our military leaders had not planned properly or not worked together.

Fallen Bedford soldier
with his Bible
The Nazis had prepared for an invasion on these very beaches by building metal structures (called hedgehogs)that at high tide would be unseen and would rip through the hull of the allied ships preventing them from reaching the beach. However, the allies had seen these booby traps from the air and instead landed at low tide in order to avoid the traps.

The memorial is so well thought out and so visually impactful that it sent chills up my spine. The bronze statues have a symbolic purpose. One was of a Bedford soldier who had died on the beach with his Bible by his side. The Bible had slipped out of his pack and was found on the beach some time later.

"Sacrifice" falling from the wall
"Scaling the Wall" is so lifelike that you feel that by touching the soldiers they will come to life. You can look right into the eyes of one of the soldiers as he scales the top of the wall (symbolizing Valor). One soldier on the wall has made the ultimate sacrifice (symbolizing Sacrifice, as he falls from the wall), and there are two others who are helping each other to make it over the wall (symbolizing Fidelity). There is a garden that pays tribute to the generals who worked together and planned this monumental military maneuver.

We took advantange of the memorial's cart tours in order to get a grasp on the events that occured that day long ago. I think our guide, Michael, thought the goal was to get us through as quickly as possible. We passed one other tour and a few times we thought we were going to tip over when taking a sharp corner. But we were able to learn and David's interest was maintained.

Even though the memorial is called the National D-Day memorial it receives no federal funding. Ok, I know that sounds amazing since everything and everyone else gets funded my our tax dollars. The memorial is built and maintained by admission prices, tours, the gift shop and private donations. I was pleasantly surprised that the admission price was just $5.00 per person, most private museums are much more pricey.

Bedford, Virginia, seems like a very unlikely place to build a National Memorial. It is not located on any major highway in the area, so it is not likely to get the normal vacation stop-off. But there is a very good reason that Bedford was chosen as the location for the memorial. You see, at the end of the day on June 6, 1944, nineteen of the soldiers from Bedford were dead and two more would die later in the Normandy campaign. Since the population of Bedford was just 3,200 they received proportionally more losses then any other community in our nation.

A man's feet should be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.
—George Santayana

This memorial is a reminder that even today we must fight evil that threatens the world. We have neighbors and loved ones who are in harms way as we enjoy the freedoms that are maintained at a high cost.


Mrs.RGS said...

An excellent post, Kim. I had never heard of this memorial and am amazed at your photos.

While I was at my daughter's we watched the Ben Stein's documentary about how the concept of Intelligent Design has been taken off of the table in the scientific community.

Ben walks through what the consequence will be if we allow this to happen. It was what Hitler believed and the reason for the death camps. It is a powerful documentary and had me in tears several times.

All we can do is to keep reminding younger generations of the cause and effect of such thinking. Thanks for doing your part.

Kim said...

Rita- The memorial has an amazing setting and with the fall leaves it was really beautiful. There were very few people when we got there, it became busy for about an hour and then we were almost the only ones there again. We took about 200 pictures while we were there.
We watched the "Expelled" video also. In fact I had to go to three stores before I could find it. I think it really gets to arrogance that we as a society can't believe there is someone more powerful then we are. Also if we were not lovingly and intentionally created what is wrong with destroying that creation?
As a side note I am glad you're back and you have been missed. But, I do hope you had a fun time with your daughter and your friend. I told you before you retired that you would have even less time then you thought. It fills up quickly doesn't it?

melinda Lancaster said...

Hi...I am Melinda Lancaster Fair, James Lancaster's daughter. my father passed away in 1978.I've just learned of the book a few years ago at my brother Maurice 50th birthday. My dad met mom Leone Louise Bellot while over in France in a coca cola bar. He was one of the lucky ones but he lived with his fair share of nightmares like many of you . God Bless you all for your service.