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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Our D-Day Fallen: Captain Ettore V. Zappacosta

As we come into the beginning of the holiday season, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by our service men and women every day.  For soldiers of today and yesterday, the holidays were a reminder of their loved ones back home and the traditions they have here on the Homefront.  It is also during this season that we remember all the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country.  On December 11, 2015 at 6pm we will open the gates of the National D-Day Memorial for free admission to begin our weekend luminary event.  Like every year, we are lighting 4,413 luminaries – one to represent each of the soldiers who were killed in action on June 6, 1944.

Captain Ettore V. Zappacosta
These luminaries will be lit in honor of servicemen, like Captain Ettore V. Zappacosta. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1915. Although there is not much about his early years, it seems as if he moved to Washington D.C. to live with the Rabil family in 1940, just before the U.S. became involved in the war.

He was the Captain of Company B of the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division of the U.S. Army during World War II. His company loaded from Weymouth-Portland to head towards Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 on his transport, the Empire Javelin.

“When we left the Empire Javelin and boarded the landing craft, Captain Zappacosta was the first man at the front. I was behind him, being his radio operator. He was very quiet going in. He was not a talkative man anyways, but he was very, very quiet on the trip in…. “ – Pvt. Bob Sales, Zappacosta’s Radio Operator, in an interview in 1999

“When the ramp dropped, Zappacosta was first off. He was immediately hit. Medic Thomas Kenser saw him bleeding from the hip and shoulder. Kenser, still on the ramp, shouted, "Try to make it in! I'm coming." But the captain was already dead. Before Kenser could jump off the boat he was shot dead. Every man on the boat save one (Pvt. Robert Sales) was either killed or wounded before reaching the beach.” -Stephen Ambrose, in his book, D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climatic Battle of World War II

Not only did Zappacosta valiantly lead his men into battle in the wake of the devastation on Omaha Beach with Company A, his ultimate sacrifice led to freedom for France, Europe, and the rest of the world. Zappacosta is buried in Yeadon, Pennsylvania at Holy Cross Cemetery. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

D-Day Fallen: John Schenk

Hello Friends!

As I am sure you have noticed, fall does not necessarily mean that the National D-Day Memorial is not busy with events and school groups. However, we are starting to slow down a bit and are getting excited for one of our favorite events of the year, Flames of Memory and Christmas in Wartime Presentation.

National D-Day Memorial's Flames of Memory and
Christmas in Wartime Presentation
During this event, thousands of luminaries are arranged throughout the Memorial and shine in recognition of Overlord’s fallen and in tribute to the ultimate sacrifice each one of them made to relight the lamp of freedom. This event is not only beautiful, but is such a vivid reminder of the sacrifice of the men on the beaches of Normandy. As twilight deepens and obscures the Blue Ridge, the Memorial will honor the 4,413 men killed on D-Day the nights of December 11-13, 2015 from 6PM-9PM. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

Luminaries are sold throughout the year and can be purchased in honor of or in memory of a loved one that has served or who is currently serving. Each luminary costs $20, or six for $100, and they can be purchased in honor or memory of anyone who has served in the U.S. Armed Forces, D-Day veteran or not. All proceeds benefit the Memorial and are tax-deductible. Also, group sales are available. If you are interested in purchasing a luminary, visit and click on “GIVING” or  call (540) 586-3329 for more information.

We would also like to extend a very special thanks to the Virginia Moose Association for supporting this worthy endeavor.

One thing we like to do each year leading up to Flames of Memory is to recognize a few of our D-Day fallen in our blog posts.  Today, I want to recognize one of our own from Bedford.

John Burwell Schenk was born in September 1916 in Bedford. He was a student in Business Administration at Virginia Tech and joined the Virginia National Guard on February 3, 1941.

One of my favorite things about John was his relationship with Ivylyn. In 1941, John was set up by a friend on a blind date with Ivylyn Jordan that lasted late into the night. They continued to date after the war began and eventually were married when he was on leave from Camp Blanding, Florida. After he deployed to England to prepare for D-Day, John and Ivylyn wrote letters to each other every day when Schenk was in England.

Just before the Normandy invasion, Ivylyn wrote a letter to John on May 21, 1944. Below is a portion of that letter:

“Although I haven’t written [recently] my heart has been filled with thoughts for and about you. Your letters are so full of hope and brightness for the future. Several have come this week written May 7, 8, 10, and 11th. They have been like sunbeams on long winter days…”

In their letters, not only did they discuss their love for one another, they talked about the daily events of their lives. After over twenty months of being apart due to the war, the war did not allow them to make it to their two year wedding anniversary.

As a part of the 29th Division, 116th Regiment, Company A, Ssgt. John Schenk landed in the first wave of the assault on Omaha Beach with other young soldiers from Bedford, Virginia. Their objective was to get up to the high-water mark and off the beach. However, many did not make it. John was one of those men who died due to heavy fire as they reached the shore.

On July 17, 1944, his parents received news from the War Department that John was killed in action in France on June 6, 1944. Although the news was not what Ivylyn expected, she lived her life like John would’ve liked for her to as she carried on his memory even though she remarried. He is buried at the American Cemetery at Normandy.

Until Next Time,


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Veterans Day

Hello Friends!

Here at the National D-Day Memorial we honor those who participated in and pay tribute to those who did not return from the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 in Normandy, France. While D-Day and World War II are the main focus of our mission, we also strive throughout the year to honor all who have served—past and current—in  the U.S. Armed Forces.   

Roger Neighborgall during WWII
Our annual Veterans Day ceremony will take place on Wednesday, November 11th at 11AM. We will
take time to honor all who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces during this special event. The program will include special music, guest speakers, and recognition of all veterans. Admission is free 10AM – 12PM. 

 Our keynote speaker for this event is World War II Veteran, Roger Neighborgall. Neighborgall was assigned to the U.S. Army 5th Ranger Battalion in 1944. He took part in the Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe campaigns and was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Combat Infantry Badge.

This year, we are also excited to have Alex Kershaw again as a special guest speaker—twice in one year, too! He recently released a new book, Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris, which is about the untold story of a brave doctor who risked everything to defy Hitler. He has also written several other books about WWII, including The Bedford Boys and The Longest Winter.

Annie J. Bronson Veterans Memorial Walk in the Spring
The latest installment of veteran bricks in the Annie J. Bronson Veterans Memorial Walk, Blue Star Garden, and Gold Star Garden will also be dedicated at this ceremony. These inscribed bricks are a permanent tribute to men and women who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States. These lasting tributes are not limited to service in World War II and can encompass any service period. The placement of each brick is not only an investment in the legacy of a loved one, but also an investment in the future of the Memorial. At a cost of $250 each, the bricks are an affordable way to give permanent veteran recognition at the National D-Day Memorial. Visit  for more information if you are interested in purchasing a brick. The next dedication of bricks will take place Memorial Day 2016 and will include orders placed now through February 1, 2016.

Special thanks to our generous sponsors for the Veterans Day ceremony, Cintas and Fostek Corporation. 

I hope to see you at the Veterans Day Ceremony if you can make it!