Ceremonies to mark 75th anniversary of D-Day invasion

The National D-Day Memorial marks the 74th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy June 6, 2018, in Bedford, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

RICHMOND, Va. — Thousands of veterans, service members and citizens are expected to attend events marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II, during ceremonies June 4-9, 2019, at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia.

Soldiers from the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team escort D-Day veteran Carl “Chubby” Proffitt at the ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy June 6, 2014, at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. (Photo by Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 29th Infantry Division will serve as escorts for World War II veterans in attendance. The 29th Infantry Division Band will perform during the June 6 event as well as additional ceremonies over several days honoring those who participated and those who lost their lives during the invasion.

In addition to the events at the Memorial in Bedford, more than two dozen VNG Soldiers from the 29th ID are participating in 75th anniversary observances in Normandy, France. Maj. Gen. John Epperly, commander of the 29th, will speak at a ceremony June 6 at the National Guard monument on Omaha Beach. Read more at the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star and see photos of events in France on the 29th ID Facebook page.

Members of the Virginia Defense Force are volunteering their time to support local law enforcement and the National D-Day Memorial staff for the June 6 event and expected missions for the VDF are parking and traffic management assistance and pre-security screenings.

Virginia Senator Bryce Reeves will present Virginia Senate Resolution No. 110 commending the 29th Infantry Division at approximately 9:15 a.m. Read the full resolution at https://go.usa.gov/xmeWm.

Brig. Gen. Lapthe Flora, Virginia National Guard Assistant Adjutant General – Army, and Command Sergeant Major Ronald Smith, the Virginia Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major, will place a wreath honoring all U.S. Forces during the ceremony.

The “Final Salute” events in Bedford will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 6, with an aerial tribute showcasing World War II-era and modern military aircraft. The ceremony will continue with a keynote address by Vice President Mike Pence, and will conclude with a roll call of World War II veterans in attendance.

On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe, but at a steep price. More than 10,000 Americans lost their lives on D-Day.

Soldiers of the 29th Division Band provide ceremonial music at the observance of the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy June 6, 2014, at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. At the exact same time, members of the 29th Division Band were performing music at D-Day anniversary ceremonies in Vierville, France. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The 29th ID’s 116th Infantry Regiment was in the first assault wave to hit the beaches and more than 800 members of the 116th were were killed, wounded or missing during the assault on Omaha Beach.

When the 116th Infantry was activated Feb. 3, 1941, Virginia communities provided Soldiers to serve in the unit, and Bedford provided Soldiers to serve in Company A, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division. During the assault on Omaha Beach, 19 of the “Bedford Boys” of Company A died. Bedford’s population in 1944 was about 3,200, and proportionally the Bedford community suffered the nation’s most severe D-Day losses.

Recognizing that Bedford represented both large and small communities whose citizen-Soldiers served on D-Day, Congress warranted the establishment of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford.

Though the main ceremonies will be on June 6, there are tribute events scheduled throughout the week in the Bedford area. On Tuesday, June 4, the Lynchburg Academy Center for the Arts will host “Drawing D-Day,” an exhibit and book signing featuring the work of the late Ugo Giannini, with his wife Maxine as the special guest, starting at 6 p.m.

There will be a dedication of a U.S. Naval Academy plaque at 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, at the Memorial.

Following Thursday’s main ceremonies, there will be a special concert and canteen featuring the 29th ID band starting at 7 p.m. at the Memorial Friday, June 7. The West Point Glee Club and U.S. Coast Guard Silent Drill Team will also perform during the event Friday evening.

The events continue into the weekend, with the “Parade of the Greatest Generation” at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 8, in downtown Bedford. The weeks events will conclude with an 11 a.m. field chapel service Sunday, June 9, on the Memorial grounds.

Information about attending the week’s events, including parking information and security policies, can be found at www.dday.org/75.

D-Day veterans from the 29th Infantry Division salute their fallen comrades during the playing of “Taps” June 6, 2012, at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. (Photo by Mr. Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)