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    HomeNewsBedford's Bravery: Honoring the Town That Lost 20 Sons on D-Day

    Bedford’s Bravery: Honoring the Town That Lost 20 Sons on D-Day

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    BEDFORD, Va.—In a somber blend of history and heartache, the town of Bedford still grapples with the palpable loss of 20 of its sons who perished during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. A testament to their sacrifice endures 80 years later, both in the memories of the families and in the solemn tributes that anchor the town’s identity.

    Omaha Beach – Bedford Boys Monument and Flags” by Jonovision82 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

    Bedford, then a modest farming community cradled by the Blue Ridge Mountains, became part of history on June 6, 1944, when Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment, from this small Virginia town, set foot on Omaha Beach. The company, which had been absorbed into the regular Army months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, saw 19 of its members killed upon landing. Another from Company F also died that day. The impact was profound—Bedford suffered the nation’s highest known per capita D-Day loss.

    Family members remember the soldiers—the Bedford Boys—with a blend of pride and sorrow. Liz Beverly, whose uncle Capt. Taylor N. Fellers was among the first to step onto Omaha Beach and was killed moments later, reflects on the unfathomable bravery required to face such odds. Sheila Fizer Maxfield Sweet bears the weight of not fully knowing her brother Charles, who joined the National Guard to help support his family during the Great Depression and was later killed in action near Saint-Lô, France.

    The Bedford Boys statue” by cmfgu is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The loss was amplified on July 17, 1944, when a Western Union clerk in Bedford’s Green’s Drug Store received a series of telegrams, each one delivering news of death. The town’s collective grief was palpable as families gathered, seeking solace and confirmation about their loved ones.

    Today, the National D-Day Memorial stands in Bedford as a solemn guardian of their memory, with statues and plaques commemorating the valor and sacrifice of over 4,400 Allied forces killed during the invasion. Particularly poignant is “The Homage” statue, unveiled for the 70th anniversary in 2014, which honors the Bedford Boys and other soldiers from Bedford who were wounded or killed in action later in the Normandy campaign.

    Omaha Beach – Bedford Boys Monument” by Jonovision82 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

    In the heart of Bedford, the Bedford Boys Tribute Center, housed in the very building where those fateful telegrams were received, offers a more intimate space where the stories of the Bedford Boys can be shared. Ken and Linda Parker, who founded the center, have dedicated themselves to preserving and conveying the legacy of these soldiers for future generations.

    The ‘ Bedford Boys ‘” by Falcon_33 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    Artifacts on display, such as a letter written by Pfc. Fizer to his mother just before his death, and Staff Sgt. Elmere P. Wright’s contract with the St. Louis Browns, now Baltimore Orioles, provide a tangible connection to the past. The Bedford Boys Tribute Center has become a place where the community can come to reflect, learn, and remember.

    Roadside America, National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, VA. What is: Thirty five ‘Bedford boys,’ including 3 sets of brothers, took part in the D-Day landing. Bedford is a small town nestled at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains between the cities of Lynchb” by richard binhammer is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    In a poignant recollection, John Boggess shares the story of his uncles, Staff Sgt. Raymond and Pvt. Bedford Hoback. Bedford is buried in Normandy, while Raymond’s body was never recovered, only his Bible found on Omaha Beach. It now resides at the National D-Day memorial, a sacred relic of a life given in the service of freedom.

    The town of Bedford, now numbering just over 6,500, continues to honor its history and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Through the actions of the Parkers, the efforts of the superintendent to educate the younger generations, and the ongoing remembrance ceremonies, Bedford ensures that the bravery of the Bedford Boys will never be forgotten.

    Relevant articles:
    ‘It’s personal’: The Virginia town of Bedford still remembers 20 men lost on D-Day, Stars and Stripes
    Bedford remembers: Virginia town still mourns 20 men lost during invasion, Stars and Stripes
    Small town still healing after losing 20 young men on D-Day, CBS 42
    Bedford, Va., lost 20 men on D-Day. Seventy-five years later, the town honored their service., The Washington Post

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