D-Day speech stresses learning from the ‘greatest generation’

Maj. Gen. Charles Whittington, Jr., commander of the 29th Infantry Division, pays tribute to the ‘greatest generation’ at the 69th Observance of the Normandy Invasion June 6, 2013 in Bedford, Va. “No one asked ‘What’s in it for me?’ or ‘Why are we doing this?’” Whittington said. The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., was dedicated in 2001 and honors the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944.  (Photo by Staff Sgt. Lalita Laksbergs, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Maj. Gen. Charles Whittington, Jr., commander of the 29th Infantry Division, pays tribute to the ‘greatest generation’ at the 69th Observance of the Normandy Invasion June 6, 2013 in Bedford, Va. “No one asked ‘What’s in it for me?’ or ‘Why are we doing this?’” Whittington said. The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., was dedicated in 2001 and honors the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Lalita Laksbergs, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

BEDFORD, Va. — Maj. Gen. Charles Whittington, Jr., commander of the 29th Infantry Division, along with Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia and former 29th Infantry Division commander, paid tribute to the ‘greatest generation’ at the 69th Observance of D-Day, June 6, in Bedford, Va.

“No one asked, ‘What’s in it for me?’ or ‘Why are we doing this?’” Whittington said. “Everyone understood the challenge and the risk and they answered the call of duty – the way true Americans have always done.”

Although heavy rains forced a venue change from the National D-Day Memorial to the Bedford Elementary School nearby, the gym was standing room only. The audience included veterans, family members, friends, local community members and supporters of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation.

Whittington stressed that everyone should take time to learn from the ‘greatest generation’ through their stories of courage, determination and sacrifice.

Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team provide the color guard for the National D-Day Observance in Bedford, Va., June 6, 2013. "Everyone understood the challenge and the risk and they answered the call of duty - the way true Americans have always done,” said Maj. Gen. Charles Whittington, Jr., commander of the 29th Infantry Division. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Lalita Laksbergs, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team provide the color guard for the National D-Day Observance in Bedford, Va., June 6, 2013. “Everyone understood the challenge and the risk and they answered the call of duty – the way true Americans have always done,” said Maj. Gen. Charles Whittington, Jr., commander of the 29th Infantry Division. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Lalita Laksbergs, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

“In 30 years, all veterans of World War II will be gone,” Whittington shared. “I ask that we do not let their sacrifices be forgotten.”

He encouraged parents and grandparents in the audience to help the children in their families put down the iPads and computer games and share with them why they are able to enjoy the luxuries and why their potential is unlimited.

“It is our job – no, our obligation – to tell the story,” he said. “We will do future generations a huge disservice if we don’t let them know who is responsible for making us the greatest country in the world.”

When Company A, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division was activated on Feb. 3, 1941, more than 30 Soldiers from the town of Bedford answered the nation’s call.

“Operation Overlord,” the cross-channel invasion of Normandy, commenced on June 6, 1944. At the end of the assault on Omaha Beach, 19 of the “Bedford Boys” from Company A died. Proportionally, the Bedford community suffered the highest per capita D-Day losses in the nation as Bedford’s population in 1944 was about 3,200.

“It was a Sunday in mid-July when there was a knock at the door and the sheriff was there and handed my father a piece of paper – a telegram,” recalled Lucille Hoback Boggess. “I remember it began with the words, ‘The War Department regrets to inform you.’”

Hoback-Boggess’ two brothers were part of Company A. Her brother, Pvt. Bedford Hoback had been killed in action on Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944.

“Telegrams were delivered all around town that Sunday,” Hoback-Boggess recalled.

The next day, a second telegram arrived at the Hoback’s farm in Bedford County. Staff Sgt. Raymond Hoback, was missing in action. His body was never found.

“Time simply stopped,” Hoback-Boggess, now 83, remembered.

Hoback-Boggess held up a worn out Bible and told the story of a Soldier from West Virginia who found Raymond’s Bible on Omaha Beach on D-Day plus one and mailed it back to the Hoback family.

The Normandy Invasion did not only have a drastic effect in the small town of Bedford, but for the French, D-Day was the beginning of their liberation from the occupation by Nazi Germany.

“There seemed to be no reason for hope until that day,” said Col. Jacques Aragones, military attaché to the Embassy of France. “D-Day will forever remain the most memorable event of the 21st century.”

National D-Day Memorial Foundation Co-President, April Cheek-Messier, spoke about the effects of D-Day on the local communities and the state of Virginia.

“This commonwealth suffered catastrophic casualties,” Cheek-Messier said. “Citizenship, liberty and democracy are intertwined with sacrifice.”

Throughout the ceremony, the audience was reminded of the sacrifices the 29th ID D-Day veterans made and the great debt that could never be fully repaid.

“The 29th has always met the challenge and I’ll make sure we always do,” Whittington said. “This promise is the least I can do to pay back the debt of gratitude we owe the Soldiers of D-Day.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Long called the D-Day Veterans up to be recognized. Those Veterans who were able to stand, 16 in all, stood in front of the stage to a resounding standing ovation. After the applause, the veterans shook dozens of hands, creating an impromptu receiving line.

Art Douglas, a volunteer at the National D-Day Memorial and Company A, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division veteran from the 1960s, believes that sharing the stories of the WWII veterans is important.

“I have a passion for this,” Douglas said. “I served in the same unit as the “Bedford Boys” and really love telling people about the history of D-Day.”

The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., was dedicated in 2001 and honors the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Forces on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The National D-Day Memorial Foundation operates and maintains the memorial and its educational mission is to preserve the lessons and legacy of D-Day.


Photos: Va. Guard joins tribute to D-Day at 69th anniversary observance
http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/sets/72157633972421654

Senior Virginia National Guard leaders and Soldiers from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team pay tribute to the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of D-Day participants at the observance of the 69th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy June 6, 2013 at Bedford Elementary School in Bedford, Va. Heavy ranges forced a venue change from the National D-Day Memorial to the school. Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia and former 29th Infantry Division commander, and Maj. Gen. Charles W. Whittington, Jr., current commander of the 29th Infantry Division, laid memorial wreathes, and 1st Battalion Soldiers provided a color guard for the event and also assisted with the wreath presentations. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Senior Virginia National Guard leaders and Soldiers from the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team pay tribute to the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of D-Day participants at the observance of the 69th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy June 6, 2013 at Bedford Elementary School in Bedford, Va. Heavy ranges forced a venue change from the National D-Day Memorial to the school. Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia and former 29th Infantry Division commander, and Maj. Gen. Charles W. Whittington, Jr., current commander of the 29th Infantry Division, laid memorial wreathes, and 1st Battalion Soldiers provided a color guard for the event and also assisted with the wreath presentations. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)