According to President April Cheek-Messier, this might be the last big gathering at the National D-Day Memorial, as the youngest veterans are now in their early 90s. She also expects the ceremony to receive some national attention.
The National D-day Memorial is located in Bedford, Virginia and was officially opened on June 6, 2001. Since its dedication, it has attracted more than 1.3 million visitors, with about 70,000 people visiting the memorial each year. It was built in Bedford mainly because of the role of the “Bedford Boys”.
The “Bedford Boys” was a group of Virginia National Guard soldiers, who were caught under the first assault on Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings and who suffered 19 casualties. The boys started their federal service in February 1941, as part of the 29th Infantry Division, of the 116th Infantry Regiment and they were trained by Lt. Nance, in Britain.
On June 6, 1944, a landing craft carrying 4 of the “Bedford Boys”, was hit by the Germans. The boys were pulled out of the water. They were the only survivors. The other 19, together with Capt. Taylor Fellers, the company commander, died while trying to reach the French soil, the Times Dispatch.com reports.
“Bring Homage to Bedford” are currently conducting a fundraising campaign to raise $250,000, which would be spent on the installment of a statue to honor the “Bedford Boys”. Cheek-Messier recently confirmed that the foundation is almost $100,000 from reaching the goal and they are now expecting a one off special present from the Board of Supervisors. She has requested the Board a $50,000 gift.
“We can never forget what they did 70 years ago,” said President April Cheek-Messier. “They were our boys.”
Elisha Ray Nance, who died on April 19, 2009, was the last survivor of the Bedford Boys.
A special veteran’s parade will be held on June 7 next year, on a Saturday, at around 10 am in Bedford. The parade is meant to start on College Street, up Peaks Street, then right on North Bridge Street and left on East Main Street. The parade will end at Bedford courthouse.
The town bell will be ringing 19 time in honor of the Bedford Boys, for giving their lives during D-Day and for all the sacrifices they made.
Another ceremony will be held on December 14, in honor of all the veterans, dead and alive, of the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Merchant Marine, Coast Guard, POW and MIA. The festivity will begin at 11 am and will end at 1 pm.