The small southwestern Virginia town of Bedford lost 20 men from Company A on D-Day and throughout the Normandy campaign in France that began on June 6, 1944.
With a population of 3,200 in 1944, Bedford endured the highest per capita loss of any U.S. locality, forever securing the sacrifices of that company — widely known as the “Bedford Boys” — into World War II history.
Their stories, as well as the impact of those losses on Bedford and the generations that followed there, will be part of the Memorial Day Commemoration at the Virginia Museum of History & Culture on Monday.
The program runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and all activities are free and open to the public. The museum is located at 428 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd.
This is the second year for the commemoration, which will focus on Virginians who served during World War II and particularly D-Day, as this year marks the 75th anniversary, said Michael Plumb, the museum’s vice president for guest engagement.
Monday’s schedule includes children’s crafts and activities, tours of the museum’s Story of Virginia exhibition, a screening of the documentary “Bedford: The Town They Left Behind,” as well as a Memorial Day ceremony at 1 p.m. that features the 392nd Army Band’s Brass Quintet.
Activities will take place indoors this year because of the high temperatures forecast for Monday.
On a day where families and communities traditionally gather to honor others, “it’s a great chance for us to think about the sacrifices of Virginians,” Plumb said.
In addition to the holiday activities, museum guests can view The War Horse in its new location. The life-size bronze statue has been moved from its previous position to a more visible one near the building’s main entrance and parking area.
The War Horse came to the museum in 1997 as a commissioned gift from philanthropist and horse breeder Paul Mellon. It memorializes the 1.5 million horses and mules killed or wounded, or those that died from disease, during the Civil War.
Since its arrival, it’s been in front of the building, near the 1912 entrance that is no longer the main entrance. It was visible to pedestrians and drivers along Arthur Ashe Boulevard.
“We think it’s a powerful piece of artwork [and] we felt it deserves to be seen by more people,” Plumb said. The horse has been moved to a new platform near the current entrance, near the steps that connect visitors to the neighboring Virginia Museum of Fine Arts property. He also said interpretive signage will be added to explain The War Horse’s purpose and significance.
“We thought this would be a great way to visually connect the two campuses,” Plumb said.