Old black and white image of soldiers going into water

America Remembers: How I Got Turned Away From the National D-Day Memorial Events

  • Joey Upper

I thought that arriving half an hour early would give me enough time to park a ways out, and walk in.

People are bad with dates. That’s not just a history buff whining about his favorite event not being properly observed, either. Birthdays, anniversaries, milestones- far too often they are simply missed and either celebrated late or not at all.

As a point of fact, yesterday I had to remind three people, two of which were history teachers, of what today was- it’s the 75th anniversary of -D-Day.

At that point, I was pretty confident in arriving half an hour before the day’s events at the National D-Day Memorial, and walking in. Heck, maybe I wouldn’t even have to hike.

It occurred to me that this is a massive point of interest for our students, grads, and professional network here at SDI- what’s more, the National D-Day Memorial is actually a little over two hours from my house. That’s a pretty easy way to get folks in touch with a big event. Plus, who is going to be there? A couple of thousand people, max?

So, I started driving. Two hours up, not a huge deal. The trip was uneventful until I got about 3 miles out.

Then things got loud.

I don’t mean that there was a ruckus, I mean that suddenly the backcountry of Southwest Virginia suddenly became boldly, vibrantly alive. Cars were crammed down side alleys, parking lots, and roads shoulders to such an extent that it was causing traffic jams for commuters. Nearly every house had some sort of ornamentation.

Locals wisely parked cars at the mouths of the entrances of their businesses so that tourists could not cram them with their vehicles, which to me and the thousands of cars suddenly snared in a Manhattan level traffic jam seemed like ungodly dead weights.

I got there half an hour early confident that I could park about half a mile out and walk into the event, but the truth is even though I waited in traffic to get closer for better than an hour, I never got closer than 1 mile of the memorial. When I got that far, I was told that I would have to come back later because they were just too full. Thousands upon thousands of people flooded the area. They were overrun by well-wishers, veterans, and average Americans.

I thought that this country collective memory of one of the bravest national actions would be limited to some enthusiastic locals, and a few hundred milling guests like myself. I have never been so profoundly pleased to feel like an idiot.

It looks like some folks can still remember a few dates, after all.

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