A Moving Ceremony

The crowd gathers beneath the Memorial Arch awaiting the 70th Anniversary Commemoration.

The crowd gathers beneath the Memorial Arch awaiting the 70th Anniversary Commemoration.

The Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day was moving and inspiring. Several thousand of all ages gathered to hear a service that lasted a little over 90 minutes. Opening with a parachute jump, the ceremony also featured four different flyovers, and a recognition of all the D-Day veterans, whom I estimate at 200-300. Governor Tim Kaine spoke briefly as did a representative of France who thanked America for what “your sons did for our country.”

What made the service so powerful, however, was that the participants “spoke.” Sixteen people read the words of the men and women who participated in the invasion. Their words were humorous, poignant, sad. The very first voice was that of PFC George Alex of the 82nd Airborne. “I was 19 and afraid,” he wrote. The crowd felt his fear even 70 years later.



A new sculpture was unveiled on the grounds entitled “Homage,” and in her remarks, the President of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation, April Cheek-Messier touched upon the Bedford Boys, saying of them, “They went down the ramps, onto the sand, on to destiny, into memory.”

The final speaker was to have been Robert Sales, of Company B, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division. In a clear voice, Sales presented his wife whom, he said, would speak for him. (It was not announced why this was done.)

Sales saw his captain, then his friend and sergeant get cut down when the ramp of the landing craft dropped onto the beach. When it was his turn to run out, the ship heaved in the turbulent surf and he was thrown off to the side and into the water, which made him the lone survivor among the 30 men in that Higgins boat. When he got ashore,his friend the sergeant was lying wounded, but propped himself up on his elbows and called to Sales for help. A sniper shot him through the head. Robert Sales knew he was next and put his head on the sand and waited . . . Perhaps, the most poignant statement of the day came from Mrs. Sales who said, “On this day, of all days, we are all together, in spirit if not in body.” I was happy to be wearing sunglasses.

The final flyover: missing man formation.

The final flyover: missing man formation.

About Austin Gisriel

You know the guy that records a baseball game from the West Coast in July and doesn't watch it until January just to see baseball in the winter? That's me. I'm a writer always in search of a good story, baseball or otherwise.
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8 Responses to A Moving Ceremony

  1. bonjer70 says:

    Well … you already know how deeply I feel connected to this very sad, but now exalted day of days … not when I was a child, of course, but once I hit adulthood. I am forever emotionally linked and greatly revere this incredible day.


  2. bonjer70 says:

    I’m sure that it will … considering my connection to it.


  3. Don Hoover says:

    While watching the Orioles Game on Friday Night, Buck Showalter honored a 96 year old Gentleman on the field who was in the D-Day battle. As I sat in my chair, tears filled my eyes,
    watching some 25,000 fans come to their feet with thunderous applause. Gary Thorne interviewed him also, and after that, everything else that happened during the game faded by comparison. Thanks for being in Bedford, and for sharing your special weekend with us.


    • Don, you are welcome; I appreciate your words because I felt very strongly that I was there representing ALL of my friends who could not attend. I can’t think of anyone I know who would not want to thank those men for what they did. I’ll have a final reflection in a day or two.


  4. Jerry Lane says:

    I almost needed sunglasses just reading this. Off topic and certainly not to critical, but “Gov Tim Kain”? I guess you meant “past” gov T.K.?


  5. Pingback: Make Plans to Attend the 75th Commemoration of the D-Day Invasion | Austin Gisriel

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