Martha and I recently visited the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, which as regular readers of this blog know, is one of our favorite places. Now that the Bedford Boys Tribute Center has opened on North Bridge Street, Bedford has become more of a mecca than a destination.
The reason for our most recent visit was a display of 4,415 poppies—one for every casualty on June 6, 1944. The flowers may have been plastic (poppies are out of season), but the inspiration they provided is very real. As we strolled through the Memorial, I found myself taking photos of the same statues and vistas that I always do, and I realized that it is because that while the emotions they inspire are not new, those emotions are always renewed; always fresh and immediate.
The Bedford Boys Tribute Center adds a great deal to the immediacy. To visit the center is to exist in multiple times all at once. This non-profit museum is not only the caretaker of the Boys’ relics, but of their memories, and indeed, of the love that the town still feels for their 20 sons, husbands, and brothers who lost their lives on D-Day. Linda and Ken Parker, the caretakers (I cannot call them owners—one does not own the collective memory of a community) are to be commended for their work and their effort to write the story of the town’s healing. That healing, by the way, is an ongoing process.
Of course, if you have an interest in World War II, you should visit Bedford. If, however, you are inspired by sacrifice and you love America, then you should take a pilgrimage to Bedford.