The words on the sign looked familiar. They read, "Welcome to Bedford County." There was just one catch. The sign was welcoming us to Bedford County, Virginia. The town we drove into was Bedford, Virginia.
My sister Janice and I had been in Richmond, Virginia for 5 days while attending the General Convention of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Our husbands had accompanied us on the trip. Fortunately for Jim, my brother-in-law did all the driving. We did some sightseeing of historic places during the rides to and fro.
Janice had planned out the trip really well and knew what we needed to see. The weather didn't always cooperate, but on the return trip the weather was fantastic. The view of the Blue Ridge Mountains was breathtaking.
The stop in Bedford was to see the National D-Day Memorial. I didn't know such a thing existed. Janice and her husband Larry had visited the memorial when it was first built. Much has been added since 2001. The first thing we noticed was that the Memorial was not part of the National Park Service, since they did not accept Jim's golden passport. As I read the plaques it appeared that everything had been donated. Plaques containing the names of service men killed on June 6, 1944 are on a Necrology Wall. Names of the U.S. troops were on one side, and the members from the other allied forces were on the other side. There was a flag of the appropriate country by each plaque. Inside the circle was a mock-up of the landing on Normandy Beach. On a level below there was a statue of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, as well as busts of other generals in the European invasion.
There was one plaque which told about the organization of the 320th Anti Aircraft Balloon Battalion, which was the first battalion made up completely of black enlisted men and officers. They trained at Camp Tyson (Knoxville) and then again in England. They launched low flying balloons over the battle site. These balloons had never been used before, and they disrupted fire from the Germans, as they interfered with their sight. The men from the 320th who survived the battle were next stationed in Hawaii. They never were in battle again and were discharged there in Hawaii.
Jim and I went to Washington, DC two years ago and went to the World War II Monument. The National D-Day Memorial is much more impressive and seems to be particularly for the enlisted men. You can check it out at www.dday.org/. Click on the heading Education for information, and then on Photo Gallery. I'm glad we visited the day before Veterans' Day. It made it really special.