Va. Guard Soldiers support funeral for D-Day veteran

Maj. Gen. Frank E. Batts, Sr., commander of the 29th Infantry Division, presents a flag to the widow of Bob Slaughter June 2 in Roanoke. Slaughter was a sergeant and a squad leader of Company D, 116th Infantry, 29th Division during the unit’s legendary assault of Omaha Beach as part of the D-day invasion on June 6, 1944. He passed away May 29 at the age of 87. (Photo by Spc. Paul Laidler, 29th Army Band)

ROANOKE, Va. — Maj. Gen. Frank E. Batts, Sr., commander of the 29th Infantry Division, and Soldiers from the 29th Army Band and Virginia National Guard Funeral Honors Program supported the funeral of Bob Slaughter June 2 in Roanoke. Slaughter, a D-Day veteran, passed away May 29 at the age of 87.

Batts served as the escort for Slaughter’s widow, Margret, and presented her with a U. S. flag during the funeral, and Virginia Guard Soldiers provided a color guard, rifle team and bugler.

“I felt that it was important for me to attend Sgt. Slaughter’s funeral because Bob and that entire generation of 29’ers who stormed the beaches at Normandy did so much to define the 29th Division and it’s ‘Let’s Go!’ spirit,” Batts said.  “I as the current serving 29th Division Commander needed to let the family know what Bob meant to the 29th and how badly the entire 29th family will miss him. I thank the family for giving me the opportunity  to participate in the interment.  Bob was an authentic American hero.”

John Robert “Bob” Slaughter of Roanoke was a sergeant and a squad leader of Company D, 116th Infantry, 29th Division during the unit’s legendary assault of Omaha Beach as part of the D-day invasion on June 6, 1944.  The assault was the turning point in the war in Europe but it came at a high price for Virginians. By the end of the day, 790 men from Virginia were dead. Eighteen died from Roanoke and 23 died from Bedford.

Slaughter joined the Virginia Army National guard at the age of 15 and went through basic training at the age of 16.   On February 3, 1941, the 29th Infantry Division entered into federal service and remained on occupation duty until the end of 1945. The unit returned to the United States in January 1946 and was demobilized and inactivated on Jan. 17, 1946.

Serving in World War II was only beginning of Slaughter’s service to the Virginia National Guard.  He is known as the driving force behind the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., serving as the founder and former chairman of the board.

The National D-Day Memorial commemorates American participation in the Normandy invasion. After a year of planning in England, more than 130,000 American, British, and Canadian troops, under the command of U.S. general Dwight D. Eisenhower, crossed the English Channel on June 6, 1944, and landed on six beaches along 60 miles of the Normandy coast.

More on D-Day and the memorial can be found in his Slaughter’s autobiography, “Omaha Beach and beyond.”

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