Small Virginia Town Reminds Us All Why Memorial Day Matters

It would be difficult to find the small town of Bedford, Virginia on a map.

But this small Virginia town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains reminds us all what an important sacrifice our soldiers made (and continue to make) to protect our country.

Just ask Bedford resident Marguerite Cottrell.

She told Fox News she remembers the day 75 years ago when a Western Union telegram was delivered to her family farm as her mother was hanging clothes on the line to dry.

Her mother read it, sat down and wept.

Cottrell's older brother, John Reynolds, had been killed in the D-Day invasion of Normandy on the coast of France.

"I knew something bad had happened," said Cottrell, who was 4. She remembers her mother telling her: "Well, little Jack has gone to heaven. I don't know what we're going to do."

But Cottrell and her family were not alone.

Twenty men from Bedford or the surrounding area were killed on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Nineteen fell while trying to take Omaha Beach as members of Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment. The 20th man was in a different company.

The decisive World War II invasion took a horrific toll on Bedford, a town of about 4,000 at the time. Its D-Day losses were among the steepest, proportionally, of any community in America.

The dead were country boys who came of age during the Depression and joined the National Guard before the war for extra income and uniforms that local girls thought looked sharp, according to author Alex Kershaw's 2003 best-seller "The Bedford Boys."

But their time in combat was short. Among the first waves in the assault on Omaha Beach, Bedford's soldiers were wiped out by Nazi machine guns and mortars within minutes after their landing craft hit the sand.

In 1996, Congress designated a plot of land next to Bedford as the site of the National D-Day Memorial, a monument to the more than 4,000 Allied troops who lost their lives in the battle.

"When people come here, it is important to see the town as the monument itself," President George W. Bush said at a 2001 ceremony dedicating the memorial. "This is the place they left behind."

Amateur historian Ken Parker and his wife, Linda, have turned the town's old pharmacy into a coffee shop and tribute center to the Bedford Boys. Green's Drug Store was where Bedford Boys had hung out as high schoolers and their wives and girlfriends exchanged gossip and news during the war.

The center is now filled with war-era uniforms, pictures and other items, including the teletype machine that Parker says printed out the notices when the boys were killed.

So as we celebrate Memorial Day, let’s all remember the soldiers from towns like Bedford and the sacrifice they made to protect our freedom.

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