Saturday, November 10, 2012

Honoring Veterans

Posted by Demetra Pappas, NEW YORK, NY -- Veterans' Day honors veterans from all services, and all wars. In this essay, I focus on one group of veterans: those who participated in WWII's D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944. In the United States there is a D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA and in the United Kingdom, there is one in Portsmouth. The Portsmouth D-Day Museum is Britain's only museum dedicated to all possible facets of D-Day, also known as Operation Overlord. 

Bedford and Portsmouth have something in common. Bedford was chosen for the memorial because this Virginia town sustained the greatest per capita loss of life during the invasion. Portsmouth was chosen for similar reasons and while less discussed than London, the Blitz resulted in massive devastation to Portsmouth.

Bedford and Portsmouth honor the valor, commitment, and sacrifice of D-Day in different ways, each movingly. The D-Day Memorial, dedicated by President George W. Bush in 2001, is located on an 88-acre campus of consecrated ground. This large, walkable (and wheelchair accessible) site has four major elements: the early planning and preparatory stages; the Channel crossing and the landing in France; the victory of the Allied Forces; and the consolidation of forces on the beaches of Normandy. Within each area visitors are welcome to view a series of smaller memorials and tributes to the soldiers. The D-Day Memorial site rises above the community as a reminder of the 4,500 Allied servicemen (many of whom were citizen-soldiers) who lost their lives. Special features include the inscribed names of soldiers killed, which are on bronze "necrology tablets". Visitors who are family members or descendants can create paper rubbings of their loved one's inscribed name. 

Portsmouth has a small, self-contained museum, which houses a jewel -- the Overlord Embroidery. This magnificent piece of work was commissioned by Lord Dulverton of Batsford to commemorate the progress and sacrifice from inception to victory. Sandra Lawrence, designer of the piece prepared thumbnail sketches from wartime photographs and then painted 34 full-sized watercolors. The embroidered panels themselves were created by the Royal School of Needlework. More than 50 different materials were used to create Overlord Embroidery including fabric from uniforms of soldiers who were there. 

Because my visits were at off-hours, I did not have an opportunity to thank any veterans for their service, or to pay homage to any family members or descendants; hence this essay of thanks.

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, New York, where she was named the SGA Faculty Member of the Year for 2011/2012. She is the author of "Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate,” (Greenwood Press).  She can be reached at and followed on Twitter @DemetraPappas

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