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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Highlights from the 71st Anniversary of D-Day

Hello All,

71st Anniversary of  D-Day
This past Saturday, 6 June 2015, the 71st Anniversary of the Allied Invasion of Normandy, also known as D-Day, was held at The National D-Day Memorial. The annual commemoration ceremony honors the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for us on that fateful day of days. They encompass the many reasons why we are here today and why it is of utmost importance to never forget their sacrifice for generations to come.

D-Day veterans Arden Earll and W.D. Casey with Korea Veteran Robert E. Key.
Over 1,900 people from across the world honored the Memorial with their presence for the 71st Anniversary of D-Day. Among the audience were at least 50 D-Day and World War II veterans. It is a true blessing to be able to honor these men and women while they are still with us. The theme for the day was honor, fidelity, and sacrifice; not a soul uttered a word when the 29th Division began the drum roll and Attention, followed by the Presentation of the Colors. The wreath laying portion of the ceremony, in tribute to units involved in the D-Day invasion, was especially emotional to observe, along with the playing of Taps shortly afterwards.

Dame Mary S. Barraco and I in the Education Tent.
Keynote Speaker Dame Mary Sigillo Barraco brought the audience to tears with her stirring and inspiring speech on the subject of honoring the past and preserving fierce patriotism in the face of evil. Dame Mary Barraco was an American teenager living in Nazi occupied Belgium. At the tender age of 17, Mary made the courageous decision to join the “Freedom Fighters”, a Resistance Group known for aiding downed pilots, sneaking supplies and knowledge in and out of detention camps, and providing safe haven for Jewish citizens fleeing from Nazi persecution. Mary and her fiancé were eventually betrayed, for the equivalent of $15, by none other than a fellow Belgian partisan. Both were captured and separated by the Gestapo and were sent to a series of detainment camps. Mary’s fiancé was executed while she spent the remainder of her captivity in a Nazi controlled concentration camp. Mary was subjected to unimaginable horrors while imprisoned, yet despite it all, she continued to fight for liberty and freedom, drawing strength from God, justice, and love of country.
 
U.S. Coast Guard Silent Drill Team
After Dame Mary’s moving speech, the Coast Guard Silent Drill team honored our D-Day veterans with a Tribute to Veterans performance in the Main Plaza. Once again, the audience was completely silent and in awe of the talented group of men and women displaying phenomenal discipline as they swung their battle ready rifles with precise execution.

Col. Arnald D. Gabriel 
Shortly after the conclusion of the ceremony, patrons were treated to the delightful talents of the 29th Division Band featuring guest conductor Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel, legendary conductor and World War II veteran. Col. Gabriel served as a machine gunner with the 29th Infantry Division in Europe during World War II, receiving two Bronze Star Medals, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and the French Croix de Guerre. He continued his military career with 21 years  dedicated to the United States Air Force, conducting the renowned U.S. Air Force Band, Symphony Orchestra, and the Singing Sergeants from 1964- 1985. Following his retirement, Col. Gabriel was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service to the U.S. Air Force and to music education. 

Woodmen of the World Lodge 175 D-Day cake.
A highlight for so many each year is the Veterans Reunion Tent. D-Day and World War II veterans are able to meet for the first time or visit with old friends as they and their families share memories of the past and hopes for the future. This year, the Reunion Tent had a special treat for our veterans and visitors. The Woodmen of the World, in celebration of their 125th anniversary, wanted to pay tribute to our D-Day veterans by baking a magnificent cake for their enjoyment. The cake showcased the twelve Allied nations that took part in the Normandy landings, along with all five invasion beaches represented around the cake.

Warmest thanks to all who supported the National D-Day Memorial for our most special event of the year, the Anniversary of D-Day. AREVA, Financial Designs, Freedom Aviation, Winoa USA, and Woodmen of the World Lodge 175 were fundamental to the success of the 71st Anniversary of D-Day. On that same token, the event would not have been such a triumph without the help of our wonderful, hardworking, and dedicated volunteers!  Thank you on behalf of all of us at the National D-Day Memorial.
President April Cheek -Messier with WWII veteran Bobbie Johnson


Take Care,
Elizabeth

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Our D-Day Fallen: PFC Lawrence A. Roberts



Hello everyone,

Saturday is quickly approaching as we prepare to commemorate the 71st Anniversary of D-Day.  As we gather together today to pay homage to the brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen who participated in the largest amphibious invasion in history, let us not forget those who gave their lives in service to their countries, the Allied nations, and the idea of liberty.  Throughout this week we will be sharing with you stories of those men who were killed-in-action on 6 June 1944.  We hope you join us on Saturday at 11AM for a special ceremony in remembrance of the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice shown by the soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force.  For more information about the events this Saturday, please visit our website at www.dday.org. 


Roberts before the war
One of the great delights that I have working at the Memorial is spending time with D-Day veterans and getting to speak with family members of D-Day servicemen.  The following account of PFC Lawrence Roberts was sent to me just this last week from his nephew. A special thank you goes to Alan Roberts for sharing this information.



Private First Class Lawrence A. Roberts

Born on 7 February 1924 in Inman, New York (Franklin County), Roberts was one of twelve children.  In the early 1940s, he decided to move to Auburn, NY where many of his older siblings had relocating after marriage.  It was here that he attended Port Byron High School and worked in the defense industry.  Auburn was home to the American Locomotive Company and in 1942 they were in a great expansion of the commercial plant facilities to accommodate wartime production needs of diesel engines and turbo chargers. 

Roberts was inducted into the service February 1943 in Auburn and was placed in the 299th Combat Engineer Battalion with many other men from the Auburn/Buffalo region.  In March 1943, men began arriving at Camp White in Oregon for training in the 299th Combat Battalion.  Training included close order drill, extended order drill, practice rifle marksmanship, use and types of engineer tools, rigging, bridge construction, and basic demolition.  In April 1944 it was time for the battalion to move to England aboard the S.S. Exchequer – a cargo ship converted to troop transport ship.  Roberts, like majority of the men in the 299th, was from NY and watched that familiar skyline fade from view knowing that it would be a long time, if ever, before they would set eyes on their homeland again.

A Company, 1944 - Roberts is pictured 5th row, 9th from left
More training and preparations ensued after reaching England.  Then the day arrived.  On 1 June 1944, men gathered in the embarkation areas at the Port of Weymouth.  Explosives were loaded aboard LCM’s and the men in LCA’s transported out into the harbor where they were loaded and embarked onto the HMS Princess Maud and LST’s.   For the next few days, men spent their time receiving regulations, briefing, practicing battle stations, preparing explosives, practice debarkation, and briefing on the latest intelligence reports concerning the beaches. 

At 0030 on 6 June 1944 the men were awakened, breakfast was served and by 0200 men and equipment were made ready for the operation.  Roberts would be among some of the first men to hit the Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach at 0633 with Company A of the 299th Combat Engineer Battalion.  Eight assault teams of the 299th Engineer Combat Battalion landed in three sectors with the mission of clearing eight 50-yard gaps in the underwater obstacles.  This Battalion was the only Engineer unit to land on both American beachheads on D-Day.  By 0715 support boats were landing; however, Infantry was pinned down by heavy, deadly mortar and artillery fire.  Five of the eight gaps the 299th had been assigned were blown. 

In a letter received from Michael Accordino, fellow Engineer and member of his assault boat team, it is believed that Roberts was killed in action (the first causality of the invasion for his hometown) along with several other members of the assault boat team when explosives they had placed went off prematurely.   Roberts was interred in Normandy with so many other servicemen who were killed in action on D-Day and throughout the Overlord Campaign. Until the day she died, Roberts' mother flew his service flag every summer day - reminding everyone of the sacrifices their family, their community, and this country made on that fateful June day.  







Until next time, 

Felicia 



B Company Guidon from 6 June 1944; National D-Day Memorial Foundation Collection




Information from:



Commemorating the Anniversary of D-Day

70th Anniversary of  D-Day
Hello All,

The 71st Anniversary of D-Day is fast approaching with only four more days left to prepare! Will you be amongst the thousands to join us for a truly humbling and honoring ceremony commemorating the 4,413 brave Allied soldiers, sailors, and airmen who gave their lives in sacrifice for the greater good?

It is hard to believe it has already been a year since the festivities of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.  Last year’s events saw the largest gathering of D-Day veterans in the country and record high numbers for visitation, totaling over 11,000 people. Over 300 D-Day Veterans from across the country made the journey to our site for the commemoration of their heroic actions. The day began with a tribute to the paratroopers who went in before dawn on D-Day with the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team descending over the site, landing in front of two D-Day veteran paratroopers.

C-47 fly over, 70th Anniversary of D-Day
The ceremony continued with heart-wrenching and truly inspiring oral histories of that fateful day, read by various speakers, with Veteran Bob Sales providing the keynote speech for the ceremony. Mr. Sales landed on Omaha Beach, with the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division. After the inspirational speeches, numerous wreaths were laid in front of the Invasion Tableau in tribute to those units who sacrificed so much. The ceremony speeches concluded with a C-47 fly over, signifying the importance of such a powerful piece of machinery that helped shape the progress of the Allied Forces in World War II.


After the ceremony, guests and veterans enjoyed the Veterans Reunion tent and sounds of the '40s with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Veterans and their families were able to connect with old friends and get to know new acquaintances throughout the afternoon.

Dedicating "Homage"
To end the day, the National D-Day Memorial hosted a special viewing of Casablanca in the Grey Plaza. The evening was a perfect end to a meaningful day. But the events of the 70th Anniversary were far from over. The next day, the Town of Bedford enjoyed a special victory parade in honor of our Veterans of D-Day and World War II. And the weekend concluded with a Chapel service on Sunday, June 8th.

It is important for us to always remember the past sacrifices of our countrymen and women so that we cherish the freedoms they have provided. It is imperative that we continue to honor those who sacrificed before us and to continue their legacy.

Join us for this Saturday’s commemorative ceremony for the 71st Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, 11 AM at the National D-Day Memorial!

Bob Sales, World War II

“I tell you my story because it is in our hands, as veterans and as citizens, to preserve the legacy of those who were there. Long after the last of us has rejoined their ranks, we have to make sure that there might never come a day when June 6th means no more than any other day. That there might never be a generation of Americans for whom the name Normandy means nothing at all. Time has…thinned our ranks… since June 6th, but on this day of all days, we are always together – in spirit if not in body.” – D-Day Veteran Bob Sales. Bob has rejoined his brother’s in arms, passing away this past February 2015.

Take Care,
Elizabeth

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Remember their Sacrifice

Hello All,

Alex Kersaw with Elizabeth and Felicia, NDDMF Staff
The staff at the National D-Day Memorial Foundation (NDDMF) would like to thank all those who came to the Memorial to support America’s veterans, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. It was impressive to see so many individuals and families honoring our fallen veterans. We are happy to report that about 1,100 people were in attendance for the Memorial Day Ceremony. Our keynote speaker, Mr. Alex Kersaw, author of The Bedford Boys, truly captured the heart and soul of Memorial Day with his poignant reminder of why it is vital to continue honoring the legacy of those who sacrificed before us and those who will continue to protect our freedoms.
Alex and April laying flowers down at Leslie Abbott's grave.

After the ceremony, Alex and our NDDMF President, April Cheek Messier, spent the afternoon at the Oakwood and Greenwood Cemeteries, paying tribute to our fallen Bedford Boys. They, along with family members of the Bedford Boys, placed flowers at each grave site. This is the first year the Bedford International Alliance has coordinated such a moving tribute to our fallen heroes, having been inspired to do so after visiting Normandy for the 70th Anniversary last year.

The next event for the National D-Day Memorial is, of course, the 71st Anniversary of D-Day on Saturday 6 June 2015 and will be an event you most certainly will not want to miss!

Message from the President, April Cheek Messier,

“The National D-Day Memorial Foundation will commemorate the 71st anniversary of D-Day with a full day of activities including special music, wreath-layings, a veteran’s reunion tent, living history, and a twilight remembrance in the evening. The ceremony begins at 11 AM on Saturday, June 6th. Representatives from France, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom will be in attendance to lay wreaths, as well as representatives from various D-Day service units.

Memorial Day 2015
The keynote speaker for the program is Dame Mary Sigillo Barraco. Barraco was an American teenager living in Belgium when World War II broke out in Europe. Barraco was fluent in French, English, Flemish, Italian, and German which would serve her well in the years to come. Shortly after the war began, she joined a Resistance Group known as the “Freedom Fighters” and was responsible for aiding downed allied pilots, hiding Jewish citizens, and sneaking supplies to those held in Nazi prisons and detention camps. Barraco and her fiancé were eventually betrayed for the equivalent of $12 by a Belgian partisan. They were subsequently captured and subjected to savage torture by the Gestapo. Her fiancé was later executed.  Barraco’s message will center on tolerance, responsibly, and never taking freedom for granted.

The U.S. Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard Silent Drill Team will also perform during the June 6th ceremony. Based out of Alexandria, Virginia, the Silent Drill Team travels extensively throughout the nation performing for thousands of citizens and dignitaries at parades, festivals, and military functions. The members of the Silent Drill Team also carry out ceremonial duties for the Military District of Washington at venues such as the White House, Pentagon, and Arlington National Cemetery. The Coast Guard Silent Drill Team exemplifies the Ceremonial Honor Guard’s time-honored values of pride, poise, and perfection.

A moving addition will be music provided by the 29th Division band which will feature the legendary Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel as guest conductor. Col. Gabriel was a combat machine gunner with the 29th Infantry Division in Europe during World War II. He received two Bronze Star Medals, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the French Croix de Guerre.

The National D-Day Memorial
Col. Gabriel served as Commander/Conductor of the internationally renowned U.S. Air Force Band, Symphony Orchestra, and Singing Sergeants from 1964 to 1985. His 21 year tenure was the longest in that organization’s history. Col. Gabriel retired from the United States Air Force in 1985 following a distinguished 36 year military career, at which time he was awarded his third Legion of Merit for his service to the United States Air Force and to music education throughout the country. In 1990, he was named the first Conductor Emeritus of the USAF Band at a special concert held at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. In 2008, the USAF Band dedicated the Arnald D. Gabriel Hall in his honor, and Bands of America inducted Col. Gabriel into its Hall of Fame. Col. Gabriel has performed in all 50 of the United States and in 50 countries around the world.

After the Memorial’s ceremony, which will conclude around noon, a patriotic concert will follow. The Enduring Freedom Honor Team from Fredericksburg, Virginia will perform from 12:30 to 1:15 PM. The group consists of high school students dressed in WWII era uniforms playing period music. From 1:30 to 2:30 PM, the 29th Division band will conduct a full performance with Col. Gabriel in the Memorial’s main plaza. Food will be available on site throughout the day, providing guests an opportunity to meet World War II veterans under the veteran reunion tent.
Admission is free throughout the day and the Memorial will remain open until 9:00 PM.  For the evening, the Memorial is hosting a Twilight Remembrance with a portion of the 29th Division Band playing 7:30 PM to closing. The band will end the evening with the sounding of Taps.

Please join the National D-Day Memorial for the 71st anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 2015. D-Day and World War II veterans and their families are asked to call ahead for VIP parking passes and reserved seating. For more information or updates, visit www.dday.org or call (540) 586-3329. This event is generously sponsored by AREVA, Winoa USA/W Abrasives, Freedom Aviation, and Financial Designs.”

I hope to see you all there!

Take Care,

Elizabeth

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend Concert: Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hello All,
You won’t want to miss our big Memorial Day Weekend Concert featuring the Jefferson Choral Society and the Let’s Dance Band this coming Saturday, May 23, 2015! Both bands will be performing patriotic songs that will stir feelings of celebration and commemoration for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. Guests will also be treated to the sounds of Big Band era music and a tribute to the English rock-n-roll sensation, The Beatles!

The Let’s Dance band will kick off the evening at 7:00 PM, followed by The Jefferson Choral Society at 8:00 PM. The Memorial will remain open until 10:00 PM. Tickets will be available at the D-Day ticket kiosk inside the Bedford Area Welcome Center or by phone at (540) 586-3329. Adults: $8:00 in advance or $10.00 at the door; students ages 6-18: $5.00 in advance or $7.00 at the door. Children under 6 are free. Bring your own chair. No coolers or pets and please bring cash, there are no ATMs on site.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Beatles

Beatlemania coming to America.
The Beatles took the world by storm in the 1960s, beginning in their homeland of Great Britain and then moving to the United States. Their music was so unique, so inventive, so artistically creative people had no choice but to stop and listen to the energetic boys from across the pond.

Made up of four young men; Paul McCartney, bass, Ringo Starr, drums, George Harrison, guitar lead, and John Lennon, rhythm guitar, The Beatles created a limitless variety of sounds and harmonies not traditionally seen in rock music of the time. There classic sixties, sophisticated, smart style allowed them to set new standards for marketable and artistic success in rock/pop genres.

Despite hardships, chaos, and personal tragedy, The Beatles legacy has stood the test of time. Their music continues to inspire people of all ages and their timeless quality knows no bounds; their influence is palpable. The success of Beatlemania hit the world not once, but twice. In 2009, a release of re-mastered original studio performances opened up a completely new generation to their iconic music, selling over one million copies worldwide. Parents and their children alike have music to bond them together forever. 

I hope you will join to celebrate our veterans and the musical talents of the Jefferson Choral Society as their pay tribute to our heroes and The Beatles.


Take Care,
Elizabeth

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

VE Day and Armed Forces 5K

Hello All,

In honor of our recent celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Victory in Europe (VE) Day, May 8th, and this coming weekend’s commemoration of Armed Forces Day, I thought it would be appropriate to share a story I came across in the news about a 91 year old veteran who wanted to share a bit of his past with the youth of today.
 
Henry ‘Duke’ Boswell, 91, enlisted into the North Carolina National Guard in 1940, when he was the tender age of 16 years young. Clearly, Duke lied about his age to enlist, even going so far as to forge his parents’ signature. One year later, war broke out in Europe, and Duke volunteered to be a paratrooper for the 82nd airborne division. Duke’s life went from small town living to action packed and danger-filled in no time flat.

“We jumped in at midnight we were fighting until two days later before the troops on the beach got up to us,” stated Duke. Duke was of course referring to the Normandy Invasion of 6 June 1944. He remembers being alone once landing on the ground and having to use his cricket to identify friend or foe. (A cricket was a metal devise that made a distinct clicking sound that resembled a cricket)

 New York City citizens celebrating VE Day in Times Square
The next major battle Duke fought in was the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest.
Duke says, “I think we probably lost more people to trench foot and frozen feet to the cold than we did to the enemy.”

Through all the hardships and horrors Duke faced, he says the worst atrocity he witnessed was the German Concentration Camps. He often thinks about what those people could have done with their lives if they were given the chance to live.

Duke’s wish is for everyone to remember the ones who fought and died to save the world we know today. We should always hold on to the memories of those who died to protect our freedoms we enjoy and hold dear, more now than ever before.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Don’t forget!!! This coming Saturday is the “We Honor Veterans” 5K Run/Walk Event to celebrate Armed Forces Day, May 16, 2015. The National D-Day Memorial and Centra-Bedford Hospice Care have come together to provide you with a fantastic morning of honoring our Veterans and enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

2014 "We Honor Veterans" 5K
Online registration, of only $25, will continue until this Friday evening, May 15 at 6 PM

Day of registration ($30) and Check-In beings at 7 AM and the Race will begin at 8 AM. The Start and Finish line is at the National D-Day Memorial- 3 Overlord Circle, Bedford, VA 24523


All proceeds will benefit veterans programs of Centra-Bedford Hospice Care and the National D-Day Memorial, both 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Individuals and teams are encouraged to sign-up and raise additional pledges to support the cause. Online registration is available at http://bit.ly/1t9Y329. For more information, please call the main office at (540) 586-3329 or visit our website at www.dday.org

I hope to see you all there!

Take Care,
Elizabeth

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Day Camp 2015

Hello All,

2014 Day Camp
Looking for a cool way to spend a hot summer day? Then join us for The National D-Day Memorial's "Growing Up in WWII" Summer Day Camp, June 24th-26th!!

If you are a 4th, 5th, or 6th grader then you are eligible to join in the festivities that make Day Camp a highlight of the year. You will be able to learn about the Allied victory in the European and Pacific theaters, celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the end of war. Come find out what caused WWII in the first place, the specific battles that took place, and the victory that changed the world. Also, learn what was happening on the home-front while our country men and women were fighting overseas.

The camp begins on June 24th through June 26th, each day beginning at 0830 and going till 1300 (1:30 PM). Students will be able to experience hands-on history with activities, crafts, period games, and ration-era snack time! They will also receive a t-shirt and souvenir!

Day Camp 2014
So, as a parent, you are asking, "What will my child gain from such an intriguing experience?" I am glad you asked!

"Growing Up in World War II" summer day camp will encourage your youngster to continue in their pursuit of knowledge and history through interactive and mindful activities. Your child(ren) will leave with a greater sense and appreciation for those of our past and present military service. At the conclusion of the wonderful camp, parents, family, and friends are invited to join us to view exhibits created by the campers, to showcase their knowledge!

Camp fees are $60.00 for the first child and $50.00 for each additional child. Fees include a camp t-shirt, craft and activity materials, daily snacks, and instruction. Space is limited, only 35 participants, and preregistration is required by June 19th. A $20.00 nonrefundable deposit is due at the time of registration.

For more information or to register, please contact the Education Department of the National D-Day Memorial by phone at (540) 586-3329. Day camp registration forms are also available online. Day Camp Event

I hope you will join us for our exciting and educational camp!


Take care,
Elizabeth