The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia is perhaps one of the most moving destinations I’ve visited in a long time. Built to commemorate the invasion of Normandy, France, and what became the beginning of the end of World War II, this significant memorial is a powerful tribute to the courage, fidelity, and sacrifice made on the beaches of France on June 6, 1944. It’s also a well-planned memorial that tells a story of the people, the times, and the events of that momentous day.
Why is the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia?
Bedford, Virginia may seem to be an out-of-the-way location for a major national memorial. Nonetheless, Bedford emerges as the most appropriate site for the D-Day Memorial.
The small rural town in the Shenandoah Valley was home to 44 soldiers, sailors, and airmen who landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Thirty-seven of those men were members of Company A of the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division, and thirty-one of them were among the first to arrive on Omaha Beach.
That day was historic for Bedford because the total D-Day fatalities reached 20, giving the town and county the highest known per capita D-Day loss in the country.
Bedford’s sons and their stories are intricately woven into the events of that fateful June day, and thus they are forever known as the Bedford Boys. There is no more fitting location for the memorial than here.
Visiting the National D-Day Memorial
Every detail of the National D-Day Memorial has meaning, from the choice and number of trees surrounding it to the color of the cement that represents the sand on Omaha Beach. Because there is so much meaning and a story behind each detail, I strongly advise taking the guided tour. Even if you have to wait a while for one to begin, the information provided by the tour guide is critical to getting the most out of the experience. I’m basically telling you to TAKE THE GUIDED TOUR!
Our guide for the day was Bill. Bill led us through the Memorial as he explained the events that occurred, all while following a timeline of the lead-up to and the events that transpired that day.
The water, the beach, the statues, and the flags. Each part of the Memorial has significance, and Bill’s information could have filled pages of notes. He pointed out significant details about the Memorial, such as the folly with Eisenhower standing tall, the busts of the Allied leaders who took part in the operation, and the military divisions that participated on the beaches that day.
By the end of our tour, even though my shoes were soaked after an hour in the cool mist, I couldn’t help but feel the weather added to the experience. The chilly drizzle would have matched the weather the troops faced on that crucial morning.
Tickets, Tours, and Hours of Operation
The National D-Day Memorial is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. and is closed on Mondays from December through February. The last ticket sales for the day are at 4:30 pm. Tickets are reasonably priced at $12 for adults, $8 for students, and FREE for WWII veterans, and active-duty military. Children under six years enter for free as well. And if you purchase in advance online, you’ll save a couple of bucks. Thomas Jefferson’s summer home Poplar Forest is nearby in Bedford County and for $20 visitors can get a combo ticket for entry into both attractions.
Visitors are welcome to take a self-guided tour, but the guided tour was so impactful, I highly recommend calling ahead to be sure there will be a volunteer conducting tours when you visit. It’s so worth it!
The National D-Day Memorial is also a member of the Blue Star Museums program. This means that from Armed Forces Day in May to Labor Day Monday in September, active duty service members and up to five family members can visit the Memorial for free.
Likewise, it’s part of Operation Kilroy Passport. This is a coalition of seven museums and memorials spread across the Commonwealth of Virginia that encourages visitors to learn about the war’s impact on the homefront. Visitors are given an “Operation Kilroy” passport in which they can collect stamps from participating locations. A passport can be redeemed for a prize after four stamps at the fourth location.
Become a Member
The National D-Day Memorial is privately funded and takes no money from the federal government. Thus, the Memorial offers memberships at different levels of sponsorship in their Overlord Society and there are multiple other methods of getting involved and supporting the Memorial.
What’s Nearby the D-Day Memorial?
Bedford is a small town in central Virginia. The quaint Shenandoah Valley community has a charming downtown area where visitors can enjoy the delightful shops and eateries.
On the main downtown strip, there is a noteworthy museum dedicated to the Bedford Boys. There are also nearby orchards, museums, antiques, and even a winery. A visit to the Bedford Area Welcome Center, which is adjacent to the Memorial, is a great place to start.
There are several bed and breakfast inns nearby that provide cozy lodging for overnight stays as well as a variety of dining options. Following our tour, we enjoyed a delicious meal at Olde Liberty Station, which was once the town’s train station.
Bedford is about thirty minutes from Lynchburg, Virginia, so a visit to Bedford can be combined with a trip to another historic town that is home to Liberty University.
I planned this trip as a culmination of our homeschool study of WWII, and I was delighted with our visit.
The tour not only brought our studies to life but also allowed us to personalize the details as we learned about the Bedford Boys and the impact June 6, 1944, had on the home front.
It is unusual to leave a destination deep in thought. Nonetheless, that’s how we left the National D-Day Memorial. This is an unforgettable and significant location that has an impact on visitors. Arrive prepared to learn and be moved forever as you face the somber reminder that freedom isn’t free.
National D-Day Memorial
3 Overlord Circle
Bedford, Virginia 24523
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