The National D-Day Memorial will soon add a “Marine Corps in the European Theater” narrative plaque—but only if they meet a $20,000 fundraising goal to support the initiative.
The National D-Day Memorial Foundation, which oversees charitable donations for the Bedford, Va. memorial, issued an official press release explaining the reason behind the effort:
“The story of the Marines in the European Theater is often overlooked, with few knowing about their contributions. Our hope at the National D-Day Memorial is to rectify that with the placement of a narrative plaque detailing the history of the Marines in Europe on and around the time of the Normandy Invasion.”
Narrative plaques are plaques detailing a specific branch or unit’s participation in Operations Overlord and Neptune. The Marine Corps narrative plaque will give details on how the Marines were instrumental in the European Theater of Operations. While the Marines were most notably serving in combat in the Pacific during World War II, the memorial would like to showcase the efforts of the Marine Corps in Europe.
Thus far the foundation has raised approximately $8,000, jumpstarted by the Lynchburg, Va., Area Detachment 749. Lee Taylor, chaplain for the Mid-East Division of the Marine Corps League, along with Dan Villarial, a Marine in the European Theater of Operations, presented the check to Foundation President April Cheek-Messier.
Villarial, 89, is reported to be extremely passionate about remembering and honoring his fellow comrades, and is something he hopes to see accomplished sooner rather than later. He regularly attends commemoration ceremonies at the memorial and is among the first to volunteer to educate students that visit the Memorial.
According to the National D-Day Memorial website, the small town of Bedford, Va., is home to the memorial because “Like eleven other Virginia communities, Bedford provided a company of soldiers (Company A) to the 29th Infantry Division when the National Guard's 116th Infantry Regiment was activated on 3 February 1941. Some thirty Bedford soldiers were still in that company on D-Day; several more from Bedford were in other D-Day companies, including one who, two years earlier, had been reassigned from the 116th Infantry to the First Infantry Division. Thus he had already landed in both Northern Africa and Sicily before coming ashore on D-Day at Omaha Beach with the Big Red One. Company A of the 116th Infantry assaulted Omaha Beach as part of the First Division's Task Force O.
By day's end, nineteen of the company's Bedford soldiers were dead. Two more Bedford soldiers died later in the Normandy campaign, as did yet another two assigned to other 116th Infantry companies. Bedford's population in 1944 was about 3,200. Proportionally this community suffered the nation's severest D-Day losses. Recognizing Bedford as emblematic of all communities, large and small, whose citizen-soldiers served on D-Day, Congress warranted the establishment of the National D-Day Memorial here.”
To make a donation toward the “Marine Corps in the European Theater” narrative plaque at the National D-Day Memorial, please take advantage of one of the following options:
Cash, check, money order and credit card Information is accepted via mail at P.O. Box 77 Bedford, Va., 24523;
By phone at (800) 351-3329 or locally (540) 586-3329;
In person at the memorial:
3 Overlord Circle, Bedford, Va., or the administrative office: 133 W. Main St Bedford, Va.