BEDFORD, Va. – For the first time since before the pandemic, the Anniversary of D-Day Ceremony was back at the National Memorial in Bedford.
On Monday, hundreds gathered at the plaza to commemorate the sacrifice and remember the day that shaped the nation’s history.
Seventy-eight years ago marked the start of a battle that would lead to Germany’s defeat less than a year later. On June 6, 1944, the D-Day Invasion of Normandy began.
It was the largest and most consequential invasion in history.
“From a historian’s point of view, June 6 is one of those rare days that occur maybe once or twice a century and decide the future course of history for generations,” said Dr. John McManus, the keynote speaker.
At least 4,414 allied troops lost their lives that single day. It’s why hundreds showed up to honor World War II veterans, like John Eakin.
“It’s real nice and it’s kind of sad in a way, too, thinking about the ones we’ve lost,” Eakin said.
Eakin is now 97 years old. However, he speaks of this day, his training and his service as if it were yesterday. He currently lives in Roanoke and came to the ceremony with his son, Rick.
“I would like for them to read their history of what we did so they could have their freedom,” Eakin added.
The invasion wouldn’t have been possible without American leadership and the men who were brave enough to do it.
It led to a military commitment with Europe, still held today. The United States became an economic, cultural, political and military superpower.
“It’s an honor to be here. People like my dad are getting more and more rare every day,” Eakin’s son, Rick, said. “They’re really hard-rock souls to fight and do what they did for other countries and for freedom in our country.”
Rick adds it’s essential people listen to stories from those like his dad. Some day, when they aren’t around to share them, everyone can understand the magnitude of what was done that day on the beaches of Normandy.