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Parting from its raising
I read with great interest your article entitled “Former Foundation board member concerned by Stalin bust” in last week’s edition of the Bedford Bulletin.
I must state with all sincerity that I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Viemeister in regards to the Stalin bust and its placement at the D-Day Memorial site. Furthermore, I also believe in situations such as this which has caused such a great amount of ill will in the community that before you speak out either for or against the matter you must come to terms with the fact that what you say or do will be judged. It basically boils down to one question: Is what you’re saying or doing going to be part of the problem or part of the solution?
It would appear to me that this foundation (not unlike a lot of things in this life) is showing signs of “parting from its raising.” This memorial was originally slated to be in Bedford due largely in part because of the huge loss the little town suffered on that fateful day. The memorial was to be set aside as a hallowed ground, so to speak, for folks to come to commemorate the D-Day landing and the boys killed in the invasion of Normandy. What a breathtakingly beautiful memorial it is!
It began very humbly but respectfully with Mr. Bob Slaughter, Roy Stevens and other D-Day vets helping to guide, direct and give suggestions for its erection. Wouldn’t it have been a novel idea to ask for suggestions, guidance and/or direction from what few veterans that remain or from the families of the deceased veterans on whether or not to use donor and grant funds for the placement of the busts that are now glaring over the site? I dare say that quite a number of citizens have hurt feelings over this issue as it hits very close to home. For many people it’s very personal.
I didn’t know my uncle that was one of the original 19 Bedford boys as my mother was just a little girl herself when D-Day occurred. My grandmother spoke very little about it to anyone as the pain was something that just never went away for her. My great-grandmother told me some stories, my mother told me some, as well, but the majority I learned about D-Day came from the books that were written and from Mr. Roy Stevens who served right along side my uncle Jack Reynolds. It’s hard to see an older gentleman cry trying to tell you a story. There have been many tears. But now those Bedford boys are all gone. They cannot speak for themselves. Therefore, I feel their families should act as their voice for them.
I have a suggestion that may or may not be taken seriously but I feel it’s very valid. Whenever I see busts of people I’ve always thought it was supposed to symbolize admiration, intrigue or reverence. I firmly believe that that is what is so upsetting to people in this instance. It has been said that there is a Cold War Museum that would be greatly interested in the Stalin bust. Could we not sell the bust to them, keep the pedestal with its history lesson and pursue another route for erecting memorial busts? This may well sound like a bonehead idea to some but it’s a suggestion all the same.
I’d like to see if it would be feasible to do a complete turnaround and go back to your roots and start to remember the Bedford Boys with busts. Wouldn’t it be grand to have a sculptured likeness of each of the original 19 that lost their lives that fateful day so we could have the freedom to even discuss this topic? I think it would be awesome to somehow give a face to the names etched in bronze up on that hill. I know it wouldn’t be real but I’d love to be able to lay my hand on “Little Jack’s” shoulder and say “I wish I could have known you - job well done” and turn and look over my back at Roy Stevens and give him a wink and a thumbs up.
The voice of a D-Day Memorial volunteer
So you ask: What is it about the Memorial that disturbs me? Well, the story of the assault on Omaha Beach told simply, yet elegantly, by the Memorial has lost its focus.
The scope of the Memorial has been broadened well beyond its original charter and the events of D-Day – and at great financial cost, I might add. Under the guise of “education,” emphasis shifted away from the memorial of that fateful day and, in my opinion, became an information tour. More plaques, more statuary – all of this culminating in the addition of the Stalin bust along with other heads of state to purportedly “educate.” The result – intended or unintended – is a memorial that tries to do so much in some ways and yet not enough in others. It no longer focuses on one particular, overarching heroic sacrifice – Operation Overlord. Moreover, the Memorial now calls visual attention to a relentless mass murderer. The public sees a face of Stalin sculpted in bronze. I’m afraid the public – especially our children – will not read (or understand, in the case of the children) the fine print below it. The very presence of Stalin’s bust sends a powerful, negative signal. I again have to ask – what are we trying to commemorate?
Over the past four years, I’ve been proud to be associated with a national war memorial which is so well thought out, so beautifully executed, and so rightfully located in America’s home town, Bedford, Virginia. This memorial visually and powerfully depicts the courage, the loyalty, and, yes, the sacrifice of our Bedford citizen soldiers who were sent on a dreadful, risky mission to the beaches of Omaha in Normandy. Moreover, this memorial is a fitting tribute as well to the lost lives of thousands of Allied soldiers on that fateful day, June 6, 1944.
The Bedford citizen soldiers of Virginia’s 29th Division believed in a way of life – a free way of life that thousands more before Normandy – and after Normandy – have died for. We seek to pay tribute to them. Their sacrifice has helped to form a heritage we want to remember with pride.
Contrast the belief of these soldiers with this historical fact: Marshal Stalin did not believe in the sanctity of life any more than he was an ally, and truthfully he was never our ally. Ask any surviving soldier of the massacred Polish Army at Katyn Forest. Wasn’t Poland our ally? Stalin’s goal from the beginning of the war was the complete domination of Europe, and once Stalingrad turned the German Army in December 1942, he was personally responsible for sacrificing thousands upon thousands of lives – the lives of not only Soviet soldiers but innocent civilians as well – in a ruthless race across Europe to get to the Rhine – and perhaps beyond – before the Western Allies.
What thwarted this madman’s goals? The Allied armies crossed the Rhine into central Germany first – thanks to D-Day. So now here in Bedford is a bronze symbol of honor of a man who defines evil, a man who brought Russia to its knees and was well on his way to dominating, not only Europe, but the entire world! Our history books will educate us on this man’s deeds and his place in world history, not a bust or a plaque placed in a beautiful setting memorializing American and Allied fallen heroes. Such a display is an outright sacrilege to those lost lives.
I personally spent over nine years of my Army career guarding what was left of Western Europe after Yalta, near the Czech border during the Cold War. I saw the barbed wire and the minefields; I heard the terror. I’ve seen first hand the iron fist of Communism along the hated wall and also in Asia. Any allegiance Stalin professed was for the benefit of his expansionist ideas.
Stalin was not a principal in the carnage at Omaha Beach in June 1944. His soldiers, sailors, and airmen were not there at all. But ours were! Where is a statue of a sailor lost at sea or one who drove the Higgins landing craft? Where is a statue of an airman who died flying spotter missions along the beaches? Where is a statue commemorating our nation’s citizen sailors, our merchant marines, who died to make D-Day possible – and died that day also? These are the people and deeds worthy of commemoration. They died due to circumstances created by others; they were not the creators of circumstances that caused death. Our memorial should pay tribute to the first and let the history books treat the latter. The bust cannot be viewed as anything other than a mockery to our Bedford Boys – each one a citizen soldier – who have been adopted by our country as symbols of bravery and valor. It is also a mockery of the service of every man and woman who have served and defended our country.
D-Day should be solely dedicated to the direct participants in Operation Overlord. We have a memorial to WWII in D.C.; duplication in Bedford is neither necessary nor wise. If we hope that the Federal government will take over maintenance of this site, it should focus on Overlord – not WWII. The Stalin controversy puts the continuation of the Memorial in Bedford at risk. Volunteers are upset, local contributors are upset, and the probability of Federal funding is diminished.
I ask everyone to please actively stand united with us and do whatever you can to ensure that the bust of Marshal Stalin be removed from the National D-Day Memorial.
James E. McSlarrow
Colonel, U.S. Army (retired)
Stickler for truth
I just read of the firm stand taken by those responsible for erecting the statue of a monster on hallowed soil. She is evidently a stickler for truth and is intent on upholding the truth embodied in historical facts and in this statue.
Stalin had millions of innocents murdered. His work goes on around the world by like-minded tyrants. Since this firm stand is being taken for sake of truth, will equal honor be given to Jesus Christ? His work too is ongoing, and instead of the slaughter of the world’s population, He is still engaged in saving and blessing humankind. Will a statue be erected in His honor upon the hallowed soil that He created? If yes, will His statue be higher than that of the tyrant? It must be!
If none can be erected to the giver of all life, remove the mass murder! Or are we still screaming “Give us Barabbas?”
Kenneth Earl Watkins
Matter of history
I am a World War II veteran but was not a member of the 116th Company A, who took a great loss on D-Day.
If Russia had not been fighting Germany at that time, many more men would have been killed on the beaches of France. Bedford paid a big price that day. I knew most of those who were killed. As a matter of history, we should recognize the sacrifices the Russian people made in the war and to quote a recent letter to the editor written by Glenn Ayers … “As a student of history and military tactics, I can say that if Stalin had not been where he was, doing what he did on June 6, 1944, the memorial might be in Berlin or Moscow today.”
Even though I am aware that Stalin was a cruel dictator, his country played a crucial part in World War II. We might not like everything that history has to say to us, nevertheless the truth stands. Don’t we want the complete story told to future generations when they visit the D-Day Memorial?
Robert S. Rucker
I am not a fan of Joseph Stalin nor do I know any defense for his reign of brutal terror in the Soviet Union but I am devoted to historical accuracy.
If the majority of people connected with the memorial to the D-Day landing do not want Stalin’s bust displayed there then it should be removed but it should be replaced with a plaque that acknowledges his role in Operation Overlord. The first joint meeting of Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin in November 1942 at Teheran could have stalled the invasion had the communist leader not seen it as the only tactic that could divert German pressure off his beleaguered country.
Two hundred and sixty enemy divisions were on Soviet soil and the Red Army was taking the brunt of the war. The battle of Moscow alone took more Soviet troops lives than the combined total of death among American and British subjects throughout the entire war. This doesn’t justify the Cold War demands or the demented purges in his own country after the war but those actions don’t justify ignoring facts to the point that a good many of our school children believe that we fought along side Germany and against Russia in WWII.
Joseph Stalin won’t win a popularity contest in his own country today much less ours but he was a major player in Operation Overlord.
We in the Bedford community have heard the Stalin bust issue, pros and cons, until we’re weary of the whole thing and the arguments could go on for a hundred years without any reasonable conclusion. As a volunteer at the National D-Day Memorial, I have witnessed the issue as being a major concern to visitors and one that is detracting from the mission of the institution – to honor and educate. I personally believe that the whole issue of the Stalin bust should come down to what lies in the best interest of the Memorial. It has already cost the Memorial perhaps, more than it can afford in desperately needed contributions, as well as some really great volunteers!
To Mr. Reed I would specifically ask: how much more are we willing to sacrifice in order to have Mr. Stalin as a part of the National D-Day Memorial? What will be the cost in the end? Is it worth risking the entire future of the Memorial over one controversial bust? As a volunteer, I will not give my opinion to visitors, but I implore Mr. Reed: Remove the Stalin bust, not so much as to whether it’s perhaps wrong, but remove it simply because it’s just not in the best interest of the future of the National D-Day Memorial.
Plans for CenterFest 2010 underway
July, August, then September – the time is zooming past us at an alarming rate. Plans for the upcoming 29th CenterFest are underway and are being implemented at this very moment.
Maps are being forged, lists are being made, and dates are being set. This year’s CenterFest will be held on Saturday, Sept. 25, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Vendors, artisans, crafters, musicians, dancers, and entertainers are all being enlisted to provide one of the regions most exciting and festive block parties. This will be a CenterFest unlike all the others! Contests and games will be available to entice everyone to come for something new and something familiar. Music and entertainment, from four different stages, will help enhance the atmosphere of this great celebration in Bedford. A smorgasbord of food will await anyone who has a fancy for something to eat while visiting local vendors and craft booths.
All of these festivities do not happen, however, just by wishing them to be. Organizing such an event takes time and dedicated people. The members of Bedford Main Street are pulling out all the stops to make sure this year’s festivities are a success, but they need your help. Many people are needed to accomplish all the tasks in the time that is left until the big day arrives. A community event requires the help of the community.
Volunteers are in extreme need to help with every aspect of CenterFest 2010. Whether someone can make phone calls, make copies, set up booths, direct traffic, tear down displays, hang signs, judge contests, or just spread the word, the help is needed!
The need for local and regional sponsorships is also requested for such an event as this. To make money, money must be spent. Local and regional companies will be missing a prime advertising opportunity by not sponsoring this incredible occasion. Tens of thousands of people – young and old – flock to Centertown Bedford for this annual event. The possibilities to enrich businesses, promote sales, and increase clientele during these economic times are endless and should not be wasted.
Local vendors and crafters are also needed. There can be no CenterFest, without its vendors. People who have a talent, craft, or unique hobby can apply all this month for a vending space. Certain fees and regulations apply according to the requirements of the actual booth. All food vendors must supply health inspection certificates and insurance policies. Spaces will disappear soon, so anyone interested in providing a booth should respond immediately.
For more information regarding CenterFest 2010, check out CenterTownBedford.com. All applications for vending booths are located on the Web site. If anyone is interested in volunteering or sponsoring this exciting event, contact the office at (540) 586-2148 or email us at CenterFest@CenterTownBedford.com or through email@example.com.
Bedford Main Street
Questions about checkpoint
This concerns an article which appeared in the Bedford Bulletin about a month ago. It was pertaining to a goat being found in the trunk of a car.
The article went on to explain it was found in the trunk of a car at a DUI checkpoint at the Bedford/Campbell County line on 460.
I have a concerns with the article. First, who made the decision to have high school students (YOVASO) at a DUI checkpoint, as well as civilians (MADD)? I can think of a number of dangerous situations which could occur at a DUI checkpoint. It is no place for civilians and especially no place for high school students.
Second, Bedford City Police, Lynchburg City Police, and Amherst deputies were also present at a Bedford/Campbell County DUI checkpoint. I question why other jurisdictions’ tax dollars were being spent in Bedford County when funds are so scarce that some jurisdictions were faced with the possibility of laying officers off. I know Lynchburg was struggling to keep officers and they are supplying them to Bedford County for a DUI checkpoint?
Third, I question the cost of this operation compared to the number of arrests. The article states 14,906 vehicles passed through the checkpoint. There were 78 citations made for minor violations, three DUI arrests, and one drug arrest. The percentage of violations to vehicles which passed through is so low I won’t even mention it here.
I can even relate the hot topic of Stalin to my letter. I understand roadblocks are quite common in Russia.