Bedford, VA - Sixty-nine years ago Thursday, American soldiers helped send history in a different direction. June 6 would eventually be known as D-Day, and Thursday that sacrifice in 1944 was honored.
The weather changed the ceremony a bit, but the rain did not scare away the crowd. Hundreds packed the Bedford Elementary School gymnasium. The crowd even had many young faces curious about their American history.
The pomp and circumstance of the ceremony are well-deserved. But beyond the music, the speeches and the formalities, it's a chance to do what comes natural to many of us: To share our stories.
WWII veterans got that opportunity. Lined up, side by side, all in a row, they met with the crowd. Getting the celebrity treatment these men never ask for but rightly deserve.
Commander of the 29th Infantry Division General Charles W. Whittington Jr. doesn't want the younger generation to ever forget.
"Our ability to share that story and do them justice is important to them, and it's extremely important to me," said Whittington.
The Sheppard kids surely haven't forgotten the D-Day sacrifice.
"It was really fun meeting all the veterans," said Kellyn Sheppard.
All three were happy to spend time with them. In a room where many are several generations older than these kids, the young ones can still appreciate our unique American freedoms and the struggle to get them:
"The amount of sacrifice it took," said Hannah Sheppard. "We have so much freedom, we can go to church," said her sister Hannah. "How impossible it would have been and how scary," said Logan Sheppard, thinking about D-Day.
Buster Shaeff knows how scary. He was there in 1944. But you'll never hear him brag about it.
"How does it feel to be a part of history like that?" we asked Shaeff.
"Well, it makes you feel old," said Shaeff, laughing.
Shaeff said that it's important to share war stories with the younger generation because it's not taught in the classroom like it used to be.