Adventure Us: National D-Day Memorial
“Freedom isn’t free.” People my age have heard these words many times from our parents and grandparents, but for a generation far removed from a world war, it can be hard to truly understand what these words mean. Fortunately for us, there are places like the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford that bring these words alive.
The D-Day Memorial, first opened 20 years ago, is marked by its striking, evocative design. The focal point of the memorial is the central plaza and pool which, with its representation of the Normandy beach landing, enables visitors to deeply experience the blood and bravery of this largest amphibious landing in history. However, the pool is just one element of the memorial, which together unfolds the entire story of D-Day. Each piece of the grounds explores a different facet of the invasion and is laden with reminders of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into that fateful day – and the subsequent push inland to free an enemy-occupied Europe.
Particularly for first-time visitors, the guided tour is essential to fully appreciate the memorial. The tour guides – many of them veterans – are knowledgeable and personable. As they guide you through the memorial, they explain how each part of the facility builds the complete story, from the planning of the commanders, to the preparation for the invasion, to the horrors of the beach landing, to the successful securing of the beachhead, to the advancement inland and – eventually – final victory. At each phase, the guides provide many vivid details that bring the characters alive.
Why is this nationally acclaimed memorial here in the small rural community of Bedford? As most locals know, Bedford holds the distinction of having the greatest losses per capita of any community on D-Day. Forty-four of Bedford’s sons participated in D-Day, 31 of whom were in the first landing wave on Omaha Beach. Twenty of these men died in battle that day.
The walls of the plaza are inscribed with the names of all 4,415 Allied soldiers from 12 nations who died storming the beach on June 6, 1944. Reading these names – fathers, sons, husbands – gives me a renewed desire to cherish the freedom for which they plunged out of those landing craft into the teeth of the enemy. May their deaths not be in vain.
Name: National D-Day Memorial, 3 Overlord Circle, Bedford, VA 24523
Time from Roanoke: 45 minutes
Activity Options: History, education, walking tours
Nearby Food: Liberty Station, Town Kitchen & Provisions, Fisher’s Restaurant, other good options in Bedford
Nearby Attractions: Bedford Boys Tribute Center, Falling Creek Park
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