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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Remembering Our Nation's POWs and MIAs

Often, we hear stories of those who made it home from war or those who paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting for their country. However, we do not always hear the stories of those who were captured or never found in conflict—our nation’s Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA). Nonetheless, their families grieve just like Gold Star families, but without closure. To put this into perspective, as of June 9, 2016, there are still 1,618 unaccounted for POW/MIAs from the Vietnam War according to the National League of POW/MIA families.

Personally, when I think of D-Day MIAs, my first thought goes to Staff Sgt. Raymond S. Hoback, one of our Bedford Boys. His story, as told below by his sister, Lucille, demonstrates the pain felt by MIA families:

The next day [after receiving the news of Bedford’s death on D-Day], in our childish way, my sister Rachel and I thought we might cheer our folks up by making them some ice cream.  We were over the freezer cranking away when there was another knock – another telegram.  “The War Department regrets,” the too-familiar preamble read, “to inform you that your son, Staff Sgt. Raymond Samuel Hoback is missing in action.”  Mom and Dad were overcome with grief and I along with them.  To this moment I can remember nothing else that happened that day.  Time simply stopped.
Raymond Hoback, D-Day MIA

Raymond was never found. Several of his company mates subsequently reported seeing him lying on the beach near water’s edge, whether wounded or dead they did not know.  What is clear is that he, along with dozens others like him, was taken by the tide into the sea.  A word now about Providence, which manifested itself in the form of a package that arrived at our house a few days later.  It was a book sent by a soldier from W. Virginia, who had landed a day after Raymond had gone ashore.  “While walking on the beach on D-Day plus one,” he wrote, “…I came upon this Bible, and as most any person would do I picked it up from the sands to keep it from being destroyed.”  It was the Bible she had given Raymond for Christmas in 1938.  It was her only tangible connection to her missing son.  She treasured it for the rest of her life, as I treasure it today.

Because they were unable to bring home Raymond, the Hobacks chose to keep Bedford in the American Cemetery at Normandy. Unfortunately, this is just one of the thousands of stories of POW/MIA families across the United States.

If you are in the area, we would love for you to join the National D-Day Memorial on Saturday, September 17 at 11 a.m. for a ceremony to honor our nation's POWs and MIAs.  The event will include a special Missing Man ceremony, wreath laying, songs by Rick Dellinger, and keynote speaker Robert O. Gray, POW, Korea. Gray enlisted in the Army in 1949 at the age of 17. He was stationed in Japan as part of the 24th Infantry Division until he was sent to Korea at the start of the war there.  He was captured by the enemy in November 1950, and spent 34 months in a POW camp. 

Gates open at 10 a.m. and admission is free until noon.  Please bring a chair as seating is limited.  Sam's Dogs will be on site with food available for purchase. Rolling Thunder Chapter 4 and Lynchburg Harley Davidson will also host a Benefit Run to the Memorial on the morning of this event.  For more information on how to participate or donate to the cause, email or click here.  
2015's POW/MIA Ceremony

Until Next Time,


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Remembering the Sacrifice of Virginia Tech Alumni on D-Day

Every year when school starts back, we eagerly await the arrival of over 360 first years from Virginia Tech’s Corps of Cadets for their annual visit. It is always exciting to watch the next generation of servicemen and women learn about the valor, fidelity and sacrifice of those who served before them—especially considering the Virginia Tech and D-Day connection.

Virginia Tech (VT) was established in 1872 with agricultural and military training central to its mission. During World War II, not only did students serve but the campus was transformed into an active-duty military installation. In all, more than 7,000 VT alumni served in WWII, of whom 323 died in service to their country.

One of our Bedford Boys and D-Day fatalities, John Schenk, was a Business Administration major at Virginia Tech. You can read more about John’s experience here. Throughout the first month or so of the invasion, VT lost 20 alumni in and around Normandy. There is a plaque just outside of the Memorial’s Gray Plaza that memorializes VT’s contribution to the D-Day Invasion.

Today, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ mission is to nurture and create great leaders ready to pursue military careers or to enter the public and private sectors after graduation. This summer, many of the cadets went to Normandy and learned first-hand about the sacrifices made by those whose footsteps they are following. Read about their trip to Normandy here.

Thankfully, it was a mild morning for the 360 or so first year cadets to rotate through seven different stations at the Memorial. Many of our volunteers, and even one of our World War II veterans, come out year after year to lead a station and share about the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of those who stormed the beaches on June 6, 1944 because it is inspiring to see young men and women who understand the importance of service to their country.

Check out the following news stories to hear more about the visit from the cadets themselves:

Until Next Time,