On Thursday, June 6, 2019 former Council President Richard Ehlert attended D-Day’s 75th Anniversary Celebration. The National D-Day Memorial is located in Bedford Virginia. On June 6, 1944, the little town of Bedford sent 32 of its sons ashore in Normandy and 19 were killed in the opening minutes of Operation Overlord. It was the greatest loss of life from a small town in America at a singular battle during world War II. Petty Officer Second Class Richard Ehlert, USN on board LST 495 can provide vivid testimony of that day. He was an eyewitness to the Fires of Hell that the Bedford Boys and thousands of other US GI’s encountered as they stormed ashore on Omaha and Utah beaches.
Seventy Five years later, Vice President Michael Pence and 20,000 spectators paid homage to 103 WWII Veterans and especially the four attendees who were at that pivotal moment in history.
The Final Salute: D-Day + 75 years was a five day event whose signature moment was a massive celebration of the planning, execution and sacrifices of the men and women involved in Operation Overlord. Despite a 90 degree sunny day, each of the 103 veterans made the walk across the Memorials Plaza to receive a Commemorative Coin from Virginia’s Governor to the applause of thousands of guests and a flyover of vintage WWII aircraft. Each veteran had a military escort as they made their way around the ellipse either with a cane, walker or wheelchair. The sole exception was our own Dick Ehlert who walked unassisted and un-escorted. Hundreds of people thanked him for his service or reached out to shake his hand or get his autograph as he passed by the “Official Rope-line.”
Later on in the evening at a private event, Mr. Ehlert, “Ash” (who actually stormed ashore on Omaha Beach) and National D-Day Memorial President April Cheek Messier shared a moment together. April and Mr. Ehlert have become good friends as he continues to support and donate items to the Memorial from his personal collection.
On D-Day + 75 years +1 day, Mr. Ehlert and I received a personalized tour of the Memorial by Josh Chase a US Navy Recruiter and D-Day Re-Enactor and Memorial Volunteer, Dick AtLee USCG (Ret). I encourage all of you to visit and support the National D-Day Memorial. Please visit their site and pay special attention to, THE FINAL SALUTE: D-DAY PLUS 75 YEARS.
SUBMITTED BY: DANIEL A. DERMER