|Luminaries around the Memorial|
As we enter the holiday season, we are reminded everyday of the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women around the world as they work to defend our country. We are also reminded of the ultimate sacrifice paid by many of those defenders across generations and the loved ones they left behind here on the homefront.
This year from December 13th to December 15th at 6pm to 10pm, we will pay tribute to the men killed in action on June 6, 1944 by placing 4,413 luminaries around the site. That is one light for each soldier, sailor, and airmen; one light for each father, brother, son, uncle, husband, and friend; one light for each life given in service of the Allied nations on June 6, 1944. Four thousand, four hundred and thirteen lights for four thousand, four hundred and thirteen lives cut short on the field of battle.
|Redstone Arsenal, 1940|
Lives like that of Sergeant Charlie Wilburn Grayson. Born August 31, 1916, Charlie grew up close to Huntsville, Alabama. During the Great Depression, Madison County led Alabama in cotton production; however all this changed with the outbreak of World War II when this quiet community, with a population of about 13,000, was selected by the U.S. Army to become the new home of the Huntsville Arsenal and the Redstone Arsenal. Personnel at these two facilities alone approached 20,000.
Charlie attended school through the seventh grade before leaving to help his family earn money during the Great Depression. On the 1940s census, Charlie’s occupation was listed as a “real construction worker” in government work. On June 7, 1940, at 23 years old, Charlie enlisted in the U.S. Army. Like the men from Bedford, Virginia, this was his one year of active service under President Roosevelt’s Selective Service Act. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor changed all of that. He was now in the U.S. Army for the duration of the war.
Charlie was part of the 8th Infantry Regiment, Antitank Company, 4th Infantry Division. Like others preparing for this invasion, he spent months training in England. The 4th Infantry Division, or the “Ivy” Division, was created on December 3, 1917 and reactivated on June 1, 1940 at Fort Benning, Georgia. On January 18, 1944, the Ivy Division embarked from New York to a final training phase in England. The Ivy Division had been added to the original invasion plans because of an enlargement of the landing area.
|8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division moving over the seawall on Utah Beach|
|Charlie's headstone in Hayden Cemtery|
Charlie and his fellow soldiers intensified their training, including practicing amphibious landings. The 4th Division, led by the 8th Infantry Regiment, was selected to spearhead the landings on Utah Beach. The soldiers of the 8th Infantry Regiment landed around 0630. Charlie was part of the first wave during the invasion. This is the end of Charlie’s story. He was killed in action on June 6, 1944. He left behind his wife, Garner B. Clark, mother, and six siblings. In 1949, his family elected to have his body returned to the states. He was re-interred at Hayden Cemetery in New Hope, Alabama.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~This holiday season help us remember the ultimate sacrifice paid by the 4,413 servicemen on June 6, 1944. If you would like more information about the luminaries or if you would like to sponsor a luminary for a family member or friend, visit our website at www.dday.org.