The National D-Day Memorial: Clearly a Worthwhile Journey

by Sally Matheny

The National D-Day Memorial
The fog on our June 5 vacation, reminded me of another foggy June 5.

Our family vacation in the summer of 2015 began on a sunny note, but quickly immersed under thick clouds and drizzling rain. 

Even though the dreary weather lounged in Virginia for days, we still had plenty of choices of things to do.

The day of our departure was June 5. The dense fog that had lingered all week rose just above the treetops. The rain ceased so we hurriedly ventured on a chair lift ride up the mountain before checking out. By the time we reached the top, we were in the dense fog again and couldn’t enjoy the view. 

We decided we might as well head home. As we descended the mountain, I thought about how the thick clouds caused problems on another June 5. Originally, WWII’s D-Day was scheduled for June 5, 1944. 

However, British meteorologists said the weather would not permit a successful invasion of Normandy, France. Although it was sunny on June 4, Eisenhower trusted the meteorologists and wisely postponed the invasion until June 6.

The National D-Day Memorial was a thirty-minute detour off our route. Usually, the GPS is set for home and there are no stops except for the essentials—gas, food, and restrooms. But this year, we chose to deviate from our set ways.

By the time we reached Bedford, Virginia blue skies welcomed us. The admission tickets purchased at the Welcome Center include an optional guided tour. At first, we thought the price was a bit high. However, after discovering it is a non-profit and does not receive federal or state funding, we deemed it reasonable.  At the conclusion of our visit, we all thought the D-Day Memorial was clearly a worthwhile journey.

The Memorial is unique. Everything is outside. Some may say everything is statues and plaques. But that’s not true at all. There’s so much more. A true and fascinating story unfolds of the largest amphibious invasion ever to take place.

I am certain we would not have gleaned the gifts we did had we done the self-guided tour. If you take your children, and you should, they will appreciate the tour guide’s presentation so much more than if you simply stop and read plaques.

I know, you’re thinking “statues and plaques,” eh…
Please don’t. You have no idea what you’re underestimating.

The D-day of Operation Overlord required a tremendous amount:

Approximately 2 years of planning
11,000 Aircraft
Over 5,000 Ships
95,000 D-Day Combatants from the U.S.
60,000 from Great Britain
20,000 from Canada

Remembering United States Service Members

More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded on D-Day alone. Currently, the engraved names of 2,499 United States service members killed on D-Day are on a memorial wall at the D-Day Memorial. 

Opposite of that wall are the names of 1,914 international, Allied service members who also died on D-Day.

In front of the memorial walls is a plaza representing the five beaches of Normandy: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. They culminate at one of the most striking exhibits. 

Visitors have the opportunity to stand with the viewpoint from a monument with a true-to-size opening of one of the landing crafts. Surrounding that is a shallow pool of water that edges onto a simulated beach. Sporadic bursts of water shoot up from the pool resembling gunfire. A faint sound track of artillery fire is in the background. The sound isn’t loud or frightening.

A granite "Higgins Boat"

It isn’t anything the magnitude of what actually occurred on D-Day, and rightly so. It isn’t meant to be. It’s just enough to bring a somber silence among those reflecting on the scene.

Our guide said it is at this point in the tour that some can go no further. A few relive the horror. Some weep uncontrollably.

It evokes a myriad of emotions for me—a sadness for those who waited in the landing crafts that day. The fear and dread they must have felt. Moreover, I felt a tremendous pride and gratitude for those that  forged ahead despite the formidable circumstances.

There are at least twenty areas to visit at the D-Day Memorial, all with a significant message. Each one could inspire an entire blog post.

As a Christian, I appreciate the Memorial’s inclusion of documented words and emblems recognizing the presence of God to many of those who served. They offer a more complete and accurate account of their lives.

I’ll end with the mention of one last statue. It wasn’t included in the guided tour but we ventured on a walkway to take a closer look at it. At first, I was confused. The first three sides we circled around only had plaques in French. It’s been over thirty years since I took high school French so I wasn’t much help interpreting.

I couldn’t decide if I liked the statue or not. I liked her stance of defense in front of a cross but there was something extremely troubling about her face.

Finally, we reached the side with an English description. Evidently, the original statue stood in a town, in France, in memory of the town’s forty-four men who died in WWI.

On June 8, 1944, the town again was under attack and the statue’s mouth and throat were destroyed by artillery fire.

The statue, recast and preserved with its war transformation, stands as a “special testament to the destructiveness of war, evanescence of victory, and fragility of peace. It’s presence at the D-Day Memorial mutely and eloquently argues that peace is a consequence of vigilance and justice—not an act of complacency or indifference.”

Even after reading the inscription, a feeling of disquiet still remained within me and I was thankful for it.

Many sacrificed their lives for justice, freedom, and peace—for their generation and for the next generation.

God help us if our fears keep us silent.

God help us if our fears keep us silent.

God help us if we become complacent. 

God help us if we turn away from what is righteous. 

The winds of the world try to gradually cover us with a dense fog of indifference. Evil presses in all around us with intentions of subtly overcoming what is good —trying to convince us that evil is good.

Christians, encourage one another to stand firm in their faith. 
Others have sacrificed for us.
What are you willing to sacrifice in pursuit of God's truth and righteousness?


  1. Thank you so much for this post! I didn't know there was a D-Day memorial and I'd love to see it. I was saddened by how little attention was paid to the day. So many lives lost and it was crucial to our victory.

  2. Sherry, I didn't know about the D-Day Memorial either until I interviewed a WWII veteran last year. He told me about a special program he attended there on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. I'm so glad we went!
    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us.


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