The National Guard’s 116th Infantry Regiment was activated in 1941. On June 6, 1944, the men in Company A, 116th Infantry, 29th Infantry Division joined in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. There were 30 men from Bedford, Virginia. They were among the 40,000 Americans who landed at Omaha Beach. Among the 2,403 Americans killed in the D-Day invasion were 19 "Bedford Boys."1
The loss of 19 men from a town with just 7,000 residents (and four others elsewhere during the war) may be the largest per capita loss for any community during World War II. That helped the US Congress decide that the National D-Day Memorial should be located at Bedford. In the town itself is Green’s Drug Store on Main Street, a site visited regularly by those young men. Exhibits there display their pictures and descriptions of their lives.2
In 1989 Bob Slaughter, a veteran of the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach, first started organizing to build the memorial, he considered a location in Roanoke. In 1994 officials in Bedford offered 20 acres for it, and in 1997 the US Congress designated that location for the memorial.
The National D-Day Memorial was dedicated by President George W. Bush in 2001, but the foundation's board was unaware that estimated $12 million project costs had ballooned to $25 million and the main contractor had not been paid fully. In 2002, the foundation declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The executive director was tried for fraud, but after two hung juries the charges were dropped.
By 2008, fundraising had been successful and the construction debts were cleared.3