Blog from President and CEO Mike Fichter: the Bedford Boys and the cost of freedom

September 12, 2012

In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, thirty men from the small town of Bedford, Virginia, huddled close together in landing craft churning through the dark waters of the English Channel on a mission unlike any other the world had ever known.  Their destination: a strip of sand known as Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

Most of the thoughts running through the minds of these young men are lost to eternity.  Surely there was no lack of thought of loved ones back home—wives, mothers, sweethearts and friends— loved ones who were now half a world away, shielded from the ferocity of war by the sprawling Blue Ridge.

These were fighting men trained for this mission, and they carried no misconception about what they would face once the landing craft gate dropped into the salty foam.  Yet they also knew that if this mission failed, every freedom they had enjoyed while growing up in America was in danger of being stripped away by those who would not rest until the United States was brought to her knees in submission.

As the shells ripped through the steel plating of the landing craft, before they even reached the beach, the cries of the first casualties underscored for these men that this would indeed be a very rough day.

For many, it would be their last day on this earth.

Of the thirty men from Bedford, Virginia, who hit the beach that day, nineteen died within minutes of the initial assault by Allied forces.  These were not mere statistics of war, they were men like Wallace Carter, Nick Gillaspie, John Reynolds and Grant Yopp.  They were young men who would never come home, men who sacrificed it all so that the folks back home could continue to worship freely, speak their minds about tyrants and friends alike, and pursue the American dream.

In the years that followed that awful day on Omaha Beach, those few Bedford men who survived never fully escaped the trauma of that day.  Before he passed away, the last of the “Bedford Boys”, Ray Nance, said of that June day so long ago, “I never really got over it, and I’m not sure if I ever will.”

Bedford, Virginia, whose population in 1944 was about 3,200, is now remembered by a smaller and smaller number of Americans as the community that proportionally suffered the nation’s severest D-Day losses, fact memorialized by National D-Day Memorial that stands there yet today.

The Bedford memorial is just one of thousands that dot the American landscape today in silent testimony to the steep price that has been paid so that you and I can enjoy the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  You can find these memorials in places like Arlington National Cemetery, Gettysburg, Valley Forge, and on just about every courthouse square in America.

Freedom isn’t free.  And it must be defended.  This is our legacy as Americans.

We are less than two months away from an election that will determine whether these freedoms will remain the hallmark of who we really are as a nation.   The freedoms we so often take for granted are just as much in jeopardy as the day when our nation suffered thousand of casualties in the D-Day invasion that shifted the tide in World War II.

Nowhere is this assault on our freedoms more clearly seen than the HHS mandate that forces every church, ministry and business to provide coverage for abortion-causing drugs in direct violation of religious beliefs.  Never before in American history has the government dared to trample such a deeply cherished fundamental right.  The truth is, an America stripped of her religious liberty is an America where all other liberties will fall to the scrap heap of history.  Will we cease to be the City on a Hill to which the rest of the world streams for its best hope for freedom?

Our freedoms are likewise under assault by a federalized health plan that is so complex and overbearing that my friends in Washington tell me that even now, no one fully understands what is really in it.  Here is what we do know: the unborn, the elderly, and the severely disabled will now be under assault like no other time in history.  As America continues her spiral into the financial abyss, this national health plan will treat the act of abortion as a cost-effective money saver compared to the expense of a live birth.

In the last three years alone, our nation has removed barriers for sending our tax dollars to support coercive abortion programs around the globe, opened the floodgates for embryo-killing research, and stripped conscience clause protections away from health care providers.   We’ve made abortion-causing drugs available without a prescription at nearly every pharmacy in America.  At the same time, some of our highest ranking officials continue to demean women by portraying a so-called right to free contraceptives and government-paid abortions as the highest rights women can aspire to in today’s America.

None of these threats to our freedoms happened overnight.  Yet for many Americans, they did happen unobserved.   Some thought it would never come to this.  Some figured that it as long as it didn’t impact them personally, it doesn’t make a difference.  But while we fill up the restaurants and malls every night of the week, and endlessly drift through hundreds of television channels that serve little purpose other than to keep us from boredom, there are those who have been working relentlessly to alter the soul of America.

It was President Abraham Lincoln who understood best that the greatest threat to America’s freedoms would come from within, speaking these words in a speech to the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois, in 1838:

“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

These are sober words from a man who guided this nation through the furnace of the Civil War.  Yet I believe these words are as pertinent today as they were in 1838.

Jobs are important, but not the most important issue in this election.

The economy matters, but it will not define who we are as a people.

No, this election is about life, liberty, and the soul of a nation that is in desperate need of returning to the fundamental principles that drove men like the Bedford Boys to lay down their lives on Omaha Beach.

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