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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Vote for Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts

Hello everyone,

It has been a busy season at the Memorial and we are excited to announce that voting will open on August 1st for this years Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifact.  This is an excellent program and one that we are happy participate in.  For the 2015 season, we have submitted a relatively new object to our collection - a 1942 Dodge WC-53 Carryall.

This 1942 Dodge WC-53 Carryall was designed for the US Army as a Command Car.  One of only 8,400 manufactured between 1942 and April 1943, this vehicle would have been used in 1942.  After the war, it was used as a family vehicle.  The National D-Day Memorial received this donation as a Gift of the Skelly Family in Memory of David Skelly, a longtime supporter of the Memorial.  Included with the truck were 2 jerry cans and all the tools which would have been on the back of the truck.  The immediate concern for the truck is preservation.  Being an outdoor site, we are concerned with the effects the elements have on the truck and are actively searching for ways to secure the vehicle on-site.  A minimal amount of conservation work will need to be completed on the interior of the truck – looking mainly at the floor and dash. 

Pieces of equipment like this have unique significance on the Second World War because it was a total war.  Military vehicles were produced in factories that once made bicycles and refrigerators.  Ten percent of working-aged women in the United States had entered the factories to support their men on the frontlines and do their part in the war effort; and children were collecting scrap metal and other materials that would be needed to make all necessary military equipment.  This truck – while it looks like a simple command vehicle – actually serves as a story to the war production effort and the support of the homefront to the frontlines, and help secure Allied victory. 

Ready for shipment to England, Newport News 1943
Click here to vote and learn more about all of the interesting artifacts selected this year. Please vote early and vote often for this artifact! 



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Family Day Fun!

 Hello All,

Authentic Navy recruitment tent on display, Family Day 2014.
I trust you all have been enjoying your summer thus far, despite the heat and stormy weather. Also, I hope everyone was able to enjoy the fireworks display in Bedford over July 4th, it was a spectacular sight!! 

If you are looking for a fun, educational and exciting weekend activity, look no further than the National D-Day Memorial. We will be hosting our annual Family Day Event, generously sponsored by the Woodmen of the World of Virginia, on Saturday, July 18, 10AM-5PM. Families will be able to meet over a dozen World War II veterans from the 8th Air Force, the 29th Infantry Division, Merchant Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and other military units. These brave veterans will be situated in the education tent until 1PM to meet with you and share their wartime experiences.

D-Day Veteran signing a veterans poster, Family Day 2014.
One such veteran is D-Day paratrooper Norwood Thomas. Thomas joined the U.S. Army in March 1942 and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division where his first combat mission was to parachute into Normandy, just 4 miles inland of Utah Beach, on 6 June 1944. Not only did he survive the Invasion of Normandy, but he also rode a Waco CG-4A troop transport glider into Holland as part of Operation Market Garden and fought in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. Meeting a man such as Norwood Thomas is humbling and unique experience nowadays. It is vitally important for us to honor and remember our veterans while they are still with us so that their legacies will be passed on to future generations. Don't miss out on your opportunity to meet a true American hero.

Not only will Norwood Thomas be sharing his heroic narrative, but also B-17 gunners, radio operators, Higgins boat drivers, and men who served in the Navy in both the Pacific and European theaters. "We encourage people to visit our WWII veterans at this event," stated April Cheek-Messier, President of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation. "We are losing them at an alarming rate of 492 a day according to Veterans Administration statistics. Over 16 million served during WWII and just over 800,000 are still with us today. Now is the time to say thank you and hear their stories. They are a national treasure," she added. To guarantee your visit with these remarkable men, be sure to make your way to the education tent before 1PM.

Dedicated D-Day volunteers having some fun at the 2014 Family Day Event.
Family Day is a uniquely interactive event for visitors of all ages to experience life during World War II. Since this year is the 70th Anniversary of the end of WWII, the main focus of the event will spotlight the twelve Allied nations involved in D-Day. Guests will be able to explore artifacts, converse with living historians, view military vehicles and equipment, partake in craft making, and more. Twenty-five activity stations will be throughout the site including stations on WWII propaganda, medics, WWII aircraft, Victory Gardens, V-mail, the home-front, and so much more! Local authors Franz Beisser (Time and Place: The Making of an Immigrant and Red Solstice) and Zoe Myers (We Two: A Story of War and Love) will be on site with their books available for purchase. Guided tours of the Memorial will take place throughout the day and depart from the deck of the Gift Store.

Recently donated authentic WWII Command Jeep.
New this year: the Memorial has partnered with the Red Cross to "Pack the Command Car" with non-perishable food and supplies for our U.S. troops serving overseas. Just like during WWII, our servicemen and women need our support in any form we can provide. If possible, please bring one or more of the following items; TRAVEL SIZE personal hygiene products such as shampoo, soap, shaving cream, deodorant, body wash, foot lotion, non-aerosol insect repellent, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, lip balm, and sunscreen. Other items include Individual Size food supplies such as hard candies, cookies, rice krispie treats, snack cakes, granola bars, power-bars, nuts, chips, pretzels, trail mix, crackers, Cheez-Its, and cheese spreads. DVDs (movies) and international phone cards are also appreciated. The Red Cross will ensure all shipping and handling of donated items overseas is taken care of and will also host a station for guests to write "V" mail to military personnel currently serving.

A big thanks goes out to our generous sponsor, Woodmen of the World of Virginia. Woodmen of the World lodges from all over the state will be volunteering during the event. Thanks to their kind donation, students 18 and under will be admitted free to the event. Adults are $10 per person; veterans are $8; active military service members are free as part of the Blue Star Museum program. All proceeds benefit education initiatives of the Memorial. Please visit or call (540) 586-3329 for more information about the event.

Take care and hope to see you all on Saturday!


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,

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 

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, 


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,

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 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,


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,