In the little town of Bedford, D-Day and World War Two veterans marked the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion.
After a flyover of restored World War Two aircraft, Vice President Mike Pence spoke directly to the more than 100 veterans gathered at the National D-Day Memorial. "We marvel at the courage you showed as young men when you stormed the beaches and faced the shadow of death," he told them. Pence went on to say that the true memorial to D-Day is the freedom secured by Allied servicemen and women during World War Two.
The town of Bedford was hit especially hard on D-Day, losing more men on the beaches of Normandy per-capita than any other place in the United States. The National D-Day Memorial opened there in 2001.
A memorial spokesperson estimates well over 10,000 people attended Thursday's event.
Despite age and failing eyesight, Navy veteran James Hartiger said he wouldn’t have missed the ceremony. Hartiger, who now lives near Smith Mountain Lake, served in the Pacific while his brother took part in the Normandy operation. "I had to be here and support my buddies," Hartiger said before the ceremony.
Lester Willis was in pilot training when the war ended. And when old soldiers and sailors get together, you can be sure plenty of stories are swapped. "Oh yeah, I heard a lot of tales," the veteran from Roanoke joked. "I didn’t have too many interesting tales. Or maybe some I shouldn’t have told, you know."
All of the veterans received a special medal from the state, as well as countless handshakes and thank yous.