Add the D-Day Memorial in Bedford VA to your next mid-Atlantic road trip. Why? It’s not a “stop and snap” statue, but a vibrant outdoor museum with exhibits and gardens. You’ll leave with a renewed appreciation for the service and sacrifice of the Normandy invasion veterans.
Why You Should Visit the D-Day Memorial in Bedford VA
Wished all the veterans in my big blended family were with me when I visited the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia on a bright autumn-leaves afternoon.
Sent a text to John, my stepson veteran, retired Army Lt. Col. and West Point graduate, telling him how rich his reactions would have made my discoveries in this place.
Ashamed to say I only went to Bedford and the D-Day Memorial because I was in the neighborhood; my goal in this beautiful territory in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Roanoke Valley, was exploring Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s retreat home an hour from Monticello.
This is not a statue with a big plaque. This is 88 carefully designed acres of gardens, plazas, sculpture, symmetry and symbolism. Non-stop stories everywhere, real records of bravery, wisdom, valor and kindness.
Take a guided tour to get those stories; some days visitors might be lucky enough to have a D-Day veteran walk you about.
Memorial Details Speak to the Kids
My son Andrew was 10 years old when we went to the beaches of Normandy, touched by the rows of white crosses and the landing craft exhibitions. I’d recommend the Bedford experience to him now, decades later.
The Memorial is in Bedford for a reason; 19 young men from this small community died that June 6, 1944 day, among the first off the landing craft. Muse kindly about the Bedford boys.
They make thinking about the armed forces personal. Being in the hometown of young men who landed on Omaha Beach and died in the D-Day invasion gives life to history. And meaning.
Veterans and scholars pay attention to the Bedford Boys’ details — Company A and the National Guard 116th Infantry Regiment.
I gained my best understanding ever of the planning and preparation of D-Day because the Memorial provides big visual experiences starting in a Classical Revival style garden.
Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower is a larger-than-life statue, standing under a mosaic of a map of the operations. Beautiful and instructive.
President George W. Bush dedicated the memorial on an anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 2001. Didn’t the world change again three months later?
Muse in the Gardens
Lush gardens at the D-Day Memorial in Bedford VA offer places to reflect, and share. Think English garden.
Portrait busts of Eisenhower’s team line the walkway to the garden whose flowers represent the Allied Expeditionary Force’s shoulder patch.
Teak benches surrounded with flowers provide spots to share emotions, to talk about reactions. Appreciate the service members also visiting.
The big plaza representing the five landing beaches of the operation called Overlord is framed with bronze tablets of the names of 4,500 Allied forces who died.
Reading the word “Overlord” on a 44-foot tall arch imprinted on my mind the code name for this operation.
You can look through a landing craft into the waters where fountain waters are staccato pops representing bullets.
Wedding Stories Tell Personal History
Look for a wedding ring on the finger of the soldier sculpture carrying his wounded buddy. This is one of the many ways the Bedford Memorial honors World War II veterans continuously.
Here’s the story from American history:
A D-Day soldier whose buddy died in his arms did the best he could with a final request. Take my wedding ring to my wife.
She was not to be found but decades later the widow of that soldier heard about the National D-Day Memorial Foundation coming together in the town of Bedford and contacted the sculptor, Jim Brothers from Missouri. He incorporated that exact ring.
Families of all ages can share conversations of lasting importance here. Plus the grounds, the vistas and the Bedford community are charming.
Most every traveling family has a veteran or two, or more, in their generations. Visiting the National D-Day Memorial wraps new understanding around their WWII experiences and perhaps service in France.
The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is a non-profit with a mission to preserve the lessons and legacy of the invasion of Normandy. Even the address evokes legacy:
3 Overlord Circle Bedford VA 24523
A guided tour is a good idea because there is lots to learn. Tours last an hour and I recommend walking again or claiming a bench and musing about the details in view of the Overlord Arch.