NEWS | April 26, 2022

VNG offering professional development experience in Normandy for D-Day

By Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Now through May 8, 2022, the Virginia Army National Guard is inviting up to five Soldiers to join senior leaders for a professional development experience honoring the 78th anniversary of D-Day June 2-10, 2022, in Normandy, France. On June 6, 1944, Virginia National Guard Soldiers were among the Allied forces who stormed the beaches of Normandy.

Today, the National D-Day Memorial resides in Bedford, Virginia, which suffered the highest per capita number of D-Day losses. At the time, Bedford was a small community of approximately 3,500. Thirty-four Soldiers from Bedford, assigned to Alpha Company, 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, stormed the beaches on D-Day. Nineteen were killed during the first day of the invasion.

“These were National Guard Soldiers, not unlike our Soldiers of today, with the same sense of community service,” explained Lt. Col. Scott Nivens, battalion commander for the Virginia Army National Guard’s Recruiting & Retention Battalion. Before taking battalion command, Nivens served in various roles throughout the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “While serving in the 116th [IBCT] over the past 20 years, I was privileged to meet regularly with the veterans who survived the Normandy landing and personally listen to their stories and the stories of their families.”

The Soldiers selected to participate in the professional development experience will visit memorials, attend commemoration events and see first-hand the battlefields and beaches relevant to the Allied invasion.

“The opportunity to visit Normandy with their fellow Soldiers, walk the shores and see in person the gallant effort the Soldiers before us went through on that day is the chance of a lifetime,” Nivens said.

Soldiers interested in attending the 78th commemoration of D-Day with the Virginia National Guard should submit a memo explaining why they want to participate to ng.va.vaarng.mbx.ngva-rr-bn-s3@army.mil by May 8, 2022. Lead champions, or those Soldiers who log the most recruiting leads from now until the deadline will be given preference during the selection process. Leads may be submitted either via the Virginia National Guard app, available on Apple or Android phones, or by sending a message on Facebook to either facebook.com/vanationalguard or facebook.com/joinvaguard.

“For a few Virginia Soldiers, this trip will give them the opportunity to travel on site, see the location for themselves and hear the stories from those locals who benefited from the sacrifice of those who came before us,” Nivens said. “For those of us in uniform, telling others the story of the Virginia Army National Guard should certainly include the story of the “Bedford Boys” in Normandy and the sense of pride in the history of our organization.”

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