Archive for Memorial

Bedford’s Burden

Posted in Life, Reflections with tags , , , on June 7, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

I don’t know how much play it got where I live, but yesterday was the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the day of the massive Allied invasion of German-occupied beaches in France during World War II. It was, and is still, the largest amphibious military assault in history. I happened to be in a small town in western Virginia visiting family. As we talked, my grandmother handed me a newspaper article about her first cousin, Lucille Boggess. The article followed her as she went to Washington, D.C., to take part in a private viewing of a documentary film titled “Bedford’s Burden”. The reason – two of her brothers, my grandmother’s first cousins, were 2 of 19 men from the town of Bedford, VA, to be killed on the beaches of Normandy.

Bedford, VA, holds the dubious distinction of being the U.S. town with the highest per-capita death rate on D-Day. 19 of 34 men from Bedford were killed on June 6, 1944, while storming the French coastline, all from Company A, 116th Infantry, 29th Division. Bedford is the site of the United States’ D-Day memorial. As far as memorials go, it is fantastic. Google it. Did you Google it? See the guy facedown on the beach? That statue is inspired by the story of my grandmother’s cousin, Raymond Hoback. Raymond’s body was never recovered from the flotsam after the battle, but his Bible was. The Bible he carried had been a Christmas gift from his parents in 1938. Corporal H.W. Crayton found the Bible laying on the beach on D-Day plus one, and was kind enough to send it back to Raymond Hoback’s family.

The impact of D-Day on the town of Bedford was huge and tangible. Bedford is a small town, even today. Losing 19 young men in a single battle was roughly equivalent to losing half a generation of men from the town. It’s really not possible to overstate the importance of D-Day to the town of Bedford.

As I pondered all of this last Friday, sitting in my aunt’s living room, reading an article from the Roanoke Times, watching the local news (more than half the broadcast was devoted to D-Day celebrations the following day), it occured to me that D-Day is not just a huge deal for the history of Bedford, VA – it is a huge deal for the history of us all. If you read up some on World War II, you will quickly discover what a huge, desperate gamble the invasion of France was. The stories of gallantry, heroism, and dedication to the cause are too numerous to recount. And it is in large part because of the heroism of so many men that the Allied Armies were able to defeat some of the worst evil in human history.

If you’re not sold on why you should get excited about June 6 each year, do a quick Google search for Bedford, Virginia, and read up on some of the personal stories. For me, it’s enough to be related, however distantly, to the inspiration for a war memorial. And it’s enough to see my grandmother tear up with pride and loss (in that order, mind you) talking about her cousins who didn’t come home from France.