National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, Virginia - Vice President Pence at D-Day “Final Salute” 75th Anniversary Commemorative Ceremony:
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Secretary Wilkie; Secretary Acosta; Senator Warner; Congressmen Cline, Riggleman, and Roy; our honored guests; members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America; our veterans gathered here, especially members of the greatest generation; and my fellow Americans: It is my great honor to join you here at the National D-Day Memorial alongside men who fought on this day 75 years ago. (Applause.)
It’s humbling to be with you all. And I thank you for your presence — joining us here to remember the service and sacrifice that triumphed over tyranny, and won back not just a continent, but a world to freedom.
On June 6, 1944, they embarked on Operation Overlord, on what General Eisenhower called the “Great Crusade.” They embarked with “the eyes of the world” upon them, and they sailed across the channel to the beaches of Normandy, carried aloft, as their general said, by the “hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere.”
They knew the odds. They knew the enemy. They knew the enemy would fight savagely to defend that crucial stronghold. Every soldier who stepped ashore was, as Private First Class Chuck Neighbor said, “a visitor to hell.”
But the men of D-Day pressed forward. In the chaos of battle, the bravery of men like Private First Class Hilman Prestridge and Private First Class Bill Sisk shone through.
There were men like Carroll Reeves and Corporal Rover Aubrey, supplying and equipping this band of brothers as they headed for the beaches.
There was Second Class Petty Officer Samuel Berry, leaping from his landing craft to swim ashore. And Second Class Petty Officer Vincent Kordack, who was caring for the wounded as bullets whistled by.
All of them risked all to win a great victory. And all of them, by God’s grace, are here with us today. (Applause.)
To these and other D-Day veterans among us, I say: Gentlemen, you honor us with your presence. And I want to assure you, we see you not just as you are, but as you were. And seeing that, we marvel that the courage that you showed as young men when you stormed the beaches and faced the shadow of death without fear.
As President Trump said today in Normandy to those who fought on D-Day, in his words, “You are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live. You are the pride of our nation…and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.” (Applause.)
And today, we also think of others from this very community who were among your ranks on that fateful day. Forty-four boys who had never strayed far from home mustered out to England, and some to eternity. They were hometown folk who became national heroes. And they will forever be remembered to history as the Bedford Boys. (Applause.)
Since the earliest days of our Republic, Bedford — like every other community in this land — has given its finest to defend America in battle. But for Bedford, D-Day was different.
While most of this town was still asleep in bed, First Lieutenant Ray Nance was racing across the sands, dodging mortar rounds and tracer fire. While the morning bells of the Presbyterian Church were ringing, Private First Class Dickie Overstreet was nursing his wounds, along the very sea wall he had been determined to reach.
While 50 women worked late in the night at the county library, rolling 9,000 bandages for our sons and brothers overseas, Technical Sergeant Ray Stevens had already fallen after leading his men onto Omaha Beach. It was only a few days later that his twin brother, Roy, found Ray’s dog tags on a cross in a makeshift graveyard not far from the beach they’d both landed on.
That night, the people of Bedford and all of America heard President Roosevelt ask Almighty God to “let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come.” And they did come.
On D-Day, 20 Bedford Boys with the 116th Infantry stormed Omaha beach and fell in the defense of freedom. That such a small town would make such a sacrifice seems almost beyond belief. As the author Alex Kershaw wrote, “Theirs is the story of one small American town that went to war and died on Omaha beach.”
To honor their sacrifice and the sacrifice of all those brave Americans who died on that day, this National D-Day Memorial was constructed here in Bedford as a tribute to all who gave the last full measure of devotion on the Longest Day.
It is a profound honor to stand with you on this day at this memorial. But I think all of you gathered here know the true memorial to the Bedford Boys and all the courageous Americans who charged the beaches of France 75 years ago today, is our freedom — the freedom they fought and sacrificed so much to defend. (Applause.)
So God bless the Bedford Boys and all the 9,388 Americans who lie in that quiet field overlooking the beaches they took 75 years ago today. God bless all the heroes forged on that day of days who fought and came home to the families and the land they love.
And on this 75th Anniversary of D-Day, on behalf of a grateful nation, to those brave veterans gathered here who fought so long ago, and to all those looking on from glory, we say one more time: Thank you for your service. Thank you for our freedom. (Applause.)
God bless you. God bless our armed forces. And God bless United States of America.