New D-Day book looks at how war affected families

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Will hold local meeting

By John Barnhart

    Alex Kershaw’s book “The Bedford Boys” details the men of Bedford’s A Company from their days drilling in the basement of the courthouse to the death of so many on Omaha Beach on D-Day.  

    Jim Morrison’s “Bedford Goes to War” is a source book, with a vast array of facts assembled in one place, for people interested in Bedford County’s involvement in World War II.
    A new book, “Ruthless finality of Sacrifice” seeks to add to this body of knowledge by presenting the story of the impact of the Bedford Boys’ sacrifice on the community they left behind.
    The book is being compiled by Ken and  Linda Parker, a retired couple from Oklahoma and is due to go into print next spring. This will be Ken’s first book. Linda has three children’s books to her credit.
    However, the couple do not consider themselves the authors of this new book.
    “I like the term ‘presented by,’” Ken said.
    He said the family members of the A Company men they have interviewed are the contributing authors. The book’s goal is to present the different degrees of sacrifice by the soldiers, the families they left behind and Ray Nance’s efforts to restart the National Guard company after the war.
    Nance, the company’s executive officer and one of only two company officers to reach the beach and live to tell about it, was successful and Bedford’s current A company is the legacy of that effort.
    Ken has never been to Normandy, although he and his wife plan to go for the 75th anniversary of D-Day next year. Linda went in June of 1965 when she was 16. The rows of crosses and Stars of David had a lasting impact on her. She also remembers that it was cold.
    The plan to go, as a couple, to Normandy came before the book and the idea for the book grew from that plan. While the bodies of most of the Bedford Boys who died on D-Day were returned to the United States after the war, nine are buried in the U. S. cemetery there. The Parkers decided to offer to bring items from surviving family members to Normandy to place on the graves.
    “The problem was, we didn’t know anybody in Bedford,” Ken said.
    They wrote a two-page letter, with their phone number, and sent it to 52 Bedford area churches. Ken said the result was that their phone was constantly ringing through March. Most of the calls were from the men’s nieces and nephews and the Parkers had long phone discussions with them. It dawned on them that these folks had many untold stories.
    “That is how we decided to write the book,” Ken said
    He believes the response he’s received is the result of a sense of 11th hour responsibility. Those old enough to remember these men while they were still alive are now at least 70. If they die, without telling these stories, the stories will be lost.
    “We said, ‘We have to do this,’” Ken said.
    Ken said the book consists of five parts. The first part has family stories of the men who were killed. The second part profiles the Gold Star Mothers. A gold star mother was the mother of a man who was killed in World War II. Part 3 tells the stories of the men who came home and the fourth part talks about the home front, particularly Monday, July 17, 1944 when the telegrams started coming in.
    Much of the delay was due to the meticulous care of U. S. Army graves registration. They wanted to make absolutely sure that the men listed as killed in action were indeed dead. This attention to detail also resulted to some of the dead originally being listed as missing in action, giving a false hope to some family members.
    “This town was on its knees that summer,” he said.
The last part is on the pride of Bedford and includes the reactivation of the National Guard company. Ray Nance had been told that he would never succeed in reactivating the company. He was determined to prove them wrong, and he did.
Young men flocked to the reactivated company and, in short order, it had more members than it did before the war. Before the war, men joined for the dollar they got for each drill and the fact that girls liked the way they looked in their uniforms. For the young men who joined after the war, it was a matter of pride — the honor of being associated with heroes.
    The book is illustrated by photos provided by families and one, in particular, has never been published before.
    The Parkers have reserved a room at Olde Liberty Station ,“The Board Room,” on Saturday, Oct. 6 from noon to 3 p.m. His hope is for as many family members of the Bedford Boys as possible to meet them. The Parkers will also set up local interviews with people.
    If you would like to set up an interview with them, but can’t make it to Olde Liberty Station, you may call them at (405) 215-8517.