BEDFORD, Va. – As each year passes, more first-hand history is lost. D-Day survivors are well into their 90s, often saluting fallen comrades from a wheelchair.
Other generations are now stepping in to carry the torch.
The National D-Day Memorial attracts all kinds of visitors and many of them are children.
Megan Smith’s fourth grade class at Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy is among the many school groups learning about the events of June 6, 1944, for the very first time.
“It’s important to make history come alive for the students,” said Smith.
D-Day veterans themselves used to be leading the tours at the memorial, but those treasured first-hand stories are now much harder to come by.
National D-Day Memorial Director of Education John Long estimates that only about 2,500 D-Day veterans are still alive.
“We want to make sure that what the Greatest Generation did during World War II, the freedoms that they helped secure for the world, that must be remembered,” explained Long.
And they’re doing just that, through school programs, commemorations for Memorial Day, D-Day and Veteran’s Day, as well as daily tours, often given by the grandchildren or children of the veterans who stormed the beaches themselves.