UPDATE 7:32 a.m. (6/7/22): While commemorating the 78th anniversary of D-Day in Bedford County on Monday, the National D-Day Memorial Foundation also announced a $1 million gift from the Fowler family for the memorial’s motor pool project.

On the occasion of the 78th anniversary of D-Day, the National D-Day Memorial Foundation today announced a $1 million lead gift for the Memorial’s motor pool from the John & Doris Fowler Family, in memory of John Fowler. Doris Fowler was joined by her son Mike Fowler and daughter-in-law Colleen Regan for today’s announcement during our annual commemoration ceremony. The Fowlers, of Hume, Virginia, are longtime supporters of the Memorial and are D-Day Society members.

“Our gift to the National D-Day Memorial Foundation is to honor the dedication and sacrifices all our veterans have made in defense of our country, especially by the Town of Bedford and the Bedford Boys,” said Doris Fowler. “It was especially meaningful to my husband John to honor his two uncles and a cousin who served in the Pacific theater during World War II. John’s service in the Army made a significant impact on the success he achieved in his engineering career as it allowed him to set aside enough money to continue his education at the University of Kansas once he was discharged from the Army. Lastly, he had a life-long interest in automobiles and trucks, and enjoyed classic car shows and military displays all his life. To be able to help the Foundation accomplish its goal to design and construct the 1940s Motor Pool is a fitting tribute to our veterans and my husband.”

To be named “The John & Doris Fowler Family Motor Pool,” the period-style building will house the Memorial’s growing collection of WWII-era vehicles, artifacts and exhibits to enhance the ability to share stories in an immersive, interactive, and engaging environment.

“The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is grateful for this generous gift and the tremendous impact it will have on the Memorial. The John and Doris Fowler Family Motor Pool will allow us to continue to educate students and visitors on the service and sacrifice of the men and women who served in WWII,” said April Cheek-Messier, National D-Day Memorial Foundation President & CEO. “We are delighted by the Fowler family’s gift and their desire to ensure that these stories are never forgotten.”

During his successful career as a Civil Engineer, John Fowler completed many high-profile projects, eventually rising to Chief Executive Officer of the Dewberry Companies from 2001-2005, then serving on the Board of Directors until his full retirement. Mr. Fowler died in August 2021 at age 84.

Statement released by the National D-Day Memorial on June 6, 2022

You can watch the recording of the National D-Day Memorial’s anniversary ceremony from Monday, June 6 by clicking here.

Meanwhile, on Monday evening, the Town of Bedford joined in the Freedom Rings Global-USA partnership by ringing courthouse and church bells in honor of “the Bedford Boys” who died while fighting for freedom in France 78 years ago.

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Monday marks the 78th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, the largest seaborne invasion in history that laid the foundations of the Allied victory in Europe during World War II.

According to the United States Census Bureau, there were about 500,000 World War II veterans in the United States in 2020. By 2030, officials estimate only 8,000 World War II veterans will remain, including roughly 2,000 who were part of D-Day.

The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford is honoring those who gave their lives on the front lines in a special ceremony at 11 a.m. on Monday, June 6, with gates opening at 10 a.m. You are asked to bring your own chair, but no coolers or pets — except for service animals — are allowed.

You can watch a livestream of the 11 a.m. ceremony by clicking here.

The ceremony will include a keynote address from historian and renowned author, Dr. John C. McManus, Curators’ Distinguished Professor of U.S. Military History at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

With McManus being one of the nation’s leading military historians and the author of 13 well-received books, the memorial says he is in frequent demand as a speaker and expert commentator.

In addition to dozens of local and national radio programs, he has appeared on CNN.com Fox News, C-SPAN, the Military Channel, the Discovery Channel, the National Geographic Channel, Netflix, the Smithsonian Network, the History Channel and PBS, among others. He also served as historical advisor for the best-selling book and documentary Salinger, the latter of which appeared nationwide in theaters and on PBS’s American Masters series. McManus hosts the National D-Day Memorial’s newly launched Someone Talked! podcast.

During the 2018-2019 academic year, he was in residence at the U.S. Naval Academy as the Leo A Shifrin Chair of Naval and Military History, a distinguished visiting professorship. His latest book Island Infernos: The U.S. Army’s Pacific War Odyssey, 1944 was released in November 2021 and his previous book, Fire and Fortitude: The U.S. Army in the Pacific War, 1941-1943 received the Gilder Lehrman Prize for military history, the most prestigious literary award in the field. McManus has published The Dead and Those About to Die, D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha BeachThe Americans at D-Day and The Americans at Normandy among others.

Description of the June 6, 2022 keynote speaker, Dr. John C. McManus, on the National D-Day Memorial’s website

Organizers say McManus will sign books following the ceremony, so you can buy his books online or in the memorial’s gift shop.

The commemoration will also feature special tributes to Ash Rothlein, a Normandy campaign veteran who spearheaded the effort to create the memorial’s ‘Homage’ sculpture and a scholarship fund, as well as Bernard Marie, a native of France who sheltered in a cellar at the age of five on D-Day before growing up to hold an annual dinner celebrating veterans who liberated France and help many veterans secure the Legion of Honor medal.

WFXR News’ Hazelmarie Anderson made a trip out to Bedford on Monday to speak with Angela Lynch, director of marketing at the National D-Day Memorial, about the ceremony. 

For more information about the memorial’s plans for the 78th anniversary of D-Day — such as offering free admission until noon on Monday — click here.

In addition, Bedford County and the Town of Bedford plan to participate in “Freedom Rings Global” in honor of the occasion, with the iconic Bedford County Courthouse bell set to ring 20 times — representing the Bedford Boys who died in Normandy — at 6:44 p.m. on Monday, joined by area churches.