December 30, 2003, 07:30
Guard unit raises funds for D-Day Memorial
By First Sgt. Vincent May
1 st Bn., 116 th Inf. Reg. UPAR
The National D-Day Memorial is located in Bedford, Virginia. It's located in this small Southwest Virginia town because at 0610 hrs on Jun. 6, 1944, Company A, 1st Bn. 116th Inf. Reg. left it's landing crafts and headed for the beaches at Normandy, France as part of the greatest military force ever assembled. Thirty minutes later all of the officers and NCO's were either dead or wounded. By days end this small town of 3,000 would lose nineteen of its young men. Per capita, this was the greatest one-day loss of any town or city in the United States. The fact that Company A still exists in Bedford, Virginia is a true testament to this small town's resilience.
During the construction of this Memorial a monetary shortfall was incurred. When this shortfall was made public a couple of years ago the debt stood at a little over six million dollars. In the last twenty months that number has been cut in half. It is the hope of foundation to retire the debt by 6 June 2004 the 60 th anniversary of this historic event.
The debt has been whittled away by not only a grass-roots effort but by restructuring and the appointment of a new board of trustees. Aggressive action by professional fund-raisers has helped tremendously. This is where we found ourselves about 6 months ago when we started planning our event.
On Dec. 13, 2003 the 1st Bn, 116th Infantry's National D-Day Memorial Bluegrass show helped to eliminate the debt as well. By nights end the show had raised over $2,500 for the Memorial. The threat of bad weather probably kept this show from achieving its goal of $5,000. Raffles and an auction of the “The Bedford Boys” signed by it author, Alex Kersaw, helped increase the amount raised.
About 200 Bluegrass fans braved the weather to see “Nothin' Fancy”, “The James King Band” and “The Guard” performed for about six hours. “The Guard” is a Roanoke, Virginia group made up of current and retired members of the Virginia Army National Guard. While on stage this group of performers has over 105 years of military service to our Nation. 1SG Vince May and SFC Brian Greear are the only members who are still in uniform.
Lt. Col. Frederick A Doyle, Battalion Commander, was pleased with the outcome and is thinking of how to do another show in the spring of 2004. “This memorial needs to retire its debt so the next phase can begin”, Doyle said. The nest phase Doyle is referring to is the establishment of the education center to be built on site. Currently a GP large tent is used to show school children how and what went into planning for the invasion. To date over 30,000 children from nine states have been to the Memorial as part of field trips established to educate them on what the D-Day Memorial is all about.
The education center will include a museum, a theater with a continuous run film documenting the events of D-Day and the actions that followed. A conference center is also planned as part of the structure. This state of the art facility is expected to cost six million dollars and will take about two years to complete.
A check presentation ceremony is planned for early 2004 at the Memorial. Should members of Team Virginia they want to contribute to this great cause please send a check to the National D-Day Memorial, PO Box 77 Bedford, Va. 24523. Make a note on your check that this money is part of the 1-116th Infantry's fund raising effort and that amount will be added to the unit's total.