A scene from the National D-Day Memorial. (Courtesy of the National D-Day Memorial’s website)
A restored L-3 plane at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. (Courtesy of the National D-Day Memorial’s website)
RICHMOND — The National D-Day Memorial is gearing up for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, an amphibious invasion considered the largest and most successful in history — and often cited as a turning point in World War II.
The celebration will begin on Tuesday, June 4, and end on Sunday, June 9.
Several events lined up throughout the week include a reception showcasing artwork drawn by soldiers during the war, aerial tributes flown by vintage planes, live footage from the joint ceremony in Normandy, concerts and a parade.
All events will take place in Bedford, about 140 miles west of Richmond. The National D-Day Memorial was erected there in honor of American D-Day veterans, including the 19 young men from Bedford who died during the invasion.
“Right now, we’re 65 days away but you know, who’s counting?” said April Cheek-Messier, president of the National D-Day Memorial.
The organization has been planning for the anniversary for more than two years and has put $800,000 into the celebration.
“I know for me, I’m extremely excited for this,” said Kirk Cox, speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates.
Cheek-Messier pointed out the magnitude of the event and said that every Allied nation during the war will send representatives. About 15,000 people are expected to attend.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in the military in World War II, fewer than 500,000 are still alive, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Cheek-Messier said she would be thrilled to have 50 to 75 veterans in attendance.
The upcoming festivities were discussed at a meeting recently of the Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission. Cox chairs the commission, which includes state legislators and veterans.
The panel was created by the General Assembly to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I and the 75th anniversary of World War II.
By Emily Holter, Capital News Service