Bible of Bedford D-Day soldier returned to family after his death

By Lindsey Ward - Anchor

One Bedford family lost more than any other did on D-Day.

A mother and father lost two sons after the Normandy invasion.

We sat down with the boys' younger sister, who explained one of her brother's remains were never found, but his Bible showed up in the mail.

Lucille Hoback Boggess, 89, stores all of her brother's keepsakes in a briefcase.

The brown leather carrier holds quite a lot of Hoback family history.

After joining the National Guard, they were assigned to Company A, along with several dozen other young men from the town.

“I think my younger brother, Raymond, joined just to be with big brother,” Boggess said.

Together, the Hoback brothers were part of the First Infantry Division that stormed Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

“They were the first to go in and I guess they just really didn't have a chance, because I guess from what we heard the Germans were there and they were just mowing them down as they hit the beach,” said Boggess.

It would be more than a month after D-Day that Boggess' family would learn both sons were gone.

“We got a telegram, it was about the middle of July, because communications took a lot longer back then and the sheriff, as I remembered, the sheriff brought the telegram to our house just informing that Bedford had been killed,” she said.

The next day they would get another telegram, which read:

"The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son Staff Sergeant Raymond S. Hoback has been reported missing in action since six June in France. If further details or other information are received you will be promptly notified."

“It just devastated my mother and father too, but daddy would go out to the barn to cry, he didn't want us to see him cry,” Boggess said.

In their grief, Boggess' parents had to make a tough decision whether to bury the remains in France of their only son found.

“My mother decided when they didn't recover Hoback's body that since they left home together and stayed together, she wanted to leave them together in death,” Boggess said.

Left with only memories of her brother, Boggess said weeks after the tragic news the Hoback family received the most unexpected gift in the mail.

The letter read, “I was walking along the beach D-Day plus one. I came upon the Bible and as most any person would do I picked it up.”

The handwritten letter from an American soldier accompanied Hoback’s most precious belonging, his Bible.

“He picked it up from the sand to keep it from being destroyed and he just thought that my mother, my parents, would like to have it, something that had belonged to Raymond,” Boggess said.

As usual back then, written on the pages inside the Bible were Hoback’s parent’s names and Bedford, Virginia.

Despite the little information, it ended up back in the hands of the grieving mother who had given it to her war-bound son.

“My mother always treasured the Bible and I have it now, because she said next to Raymond she would have wanted his Bible,” she said.

They would never learn what exactly happened to Hoback that day on Omaha Beach, but they weren't left empty-handed.

“We have a part of him, the last thing he probably held on to was the Bible,” Boggess said. 

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