Today marks a sad day for those of us who admire and appreciate the men and women of the Greatest Generation. Sgt. Bob Slaughter, age 87, passed away this morning. Sgt. Slaughter was part of the US 116th Infantry Brigade that stormed Omaha Beach in the D-Day invasion of Europe at Normandy. Sgt. Slaughter was part of Company D of the Virginia National Guard. A group that had been derided, even by the Army, as the "Home Nannies" and the "Weekend Warriors," the Virginia National Guard was activated and sent to England to be part of the D-Day invasion force. Subsequently, Sgt. Slaughter's brigade lost over 1000 men, his Virginia Guard unit lost over 70 men, and Sgt. Slaughter's hometown company, "The Bedford Boys," lost over 20 men during the first wave of that invasion. It was the greatest loss of life for one town in a single day of battle since the Civil War. Yet, despite the losses, Sgt. Slaughter took his men, what was left of them, to fight from Normandy to Berlin. Even though Sgt. Slaughter received both gunshot and mortar wounds as they marched across France and Germany, he continued serving our country in battle until war's end.
If this were the end of the story, it would be a great one. However, over the past decade Bob Slaughter led a number of other individuals to found the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA. A profoundly beautiful, impressive and informative site, this memorial stands as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation in defense of liberty. Furthermore, thanks to the efforts of Sgt. Slaughter, the D-Day Memorial stands in the town that endured more corporate loss and suffering than any other town its size in America.
In addition to his other accomplishments, Sgt. Slaughter also became a respected author, having written, "Omaha Beach and Beyond: The Autobiography of John Robert Slaughter." The book tells in touching and chilling detail the harrowing story of Sgt. Slaughter and the other "Bedford Boys." After writing his book, Slaughter then became a tireless fundraiser for the D-Day Memorial and for other veterans groups who support disabled veterans across the nation.
We are losing the men and women who fought WWII at the rate of 6000+ per day. Of the 16 million Americans who served in the war, only about 2 million are still with us. Sadly, these veterans are now dying so fast that the complete passing of that gallant generation is perhaps little more than a decade away. Nevertheless, thanks to the post-war efforts of Sgt. Slaughter and those like him, the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, and the D-Day Memorial in Bedford will remind generations to come that true greatness demands sacrifice and the price of freedom is never cheap.
Thank you, Bob Slaughter, for living a life that counted both in time of war and afterward. May your legacy be lasting and may your peace be eternal.