The last great reunion of veterans from the War Between the States took place at Gettysburg in 1938. It was the 75th anniversary of the epic battle, and some 1,845* veterans from both North and South assembled to remember and to be honored. Some of them lived to see World War II and, as did everyone else, anxiously followed the news bulletins and radio broadcasts on June 6, 1944 when the Allies embarked on D-Day. Now, the boys who landed in Normandy are about to arrive at the 75th anniversary of their great battle on June 6 of next year. Appropriately, the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia is planning to commemorate “the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of those who fought to free the world of tyranny.”
I attended the 70th Commemoration and I expect to be present at this one as well. That event was a moving experience, and I urge everyone with an interest in history to attend the 75th as I suspect that 2019 will be the last great gathering of these veterans. You will want to tell your children and grandchildren that you saw these makers of history. Better yet, take your children and grandchildren and impress upon them the greatness of those old men who were young once, and who, in their youth, saved the world. Indeed, according to the Summer 2018 Memorial newsletter, “the largest gathering of D-Day veterans in the Nation is expected to attend the ceremony that day with every D-Day veteran in attendance being introduced in a special roll call.” That will take place on the morning of Thursday, June 6. Friday’s events include an evening concert and canteen, and “a 1940s themed parade featuring veterans, antique cars, bands, and living historians” on Saturday.
Bedford is still a small town and accommodations are few. If you plan to attend it is not too early to reserve a room.
I will go for the history and the pageantry, but mostly to fulfill the obligation and the desire to say “thank you.”
* According to The Last Reunion of the Blue and Gray, by Paul L. Roy, 1950.
[Read The Bedford Boys, by Alex Kershaw, for an explanation as to why the National D-Day Memorial is located in a little town between Lynchburg and Roanoke, Virginia. This is the very moving story of the very first boys to hit the beach.]