Hey it’s Terrific Tuesday again. How’s everything in your neck of the woods?
Bob Slaughter died today at the age of 87. He was a Roanoke boy in Company D of the 116th/ 29th Division on D-Day June 6, 1944. No doubt when he passed into the heavens, he came across a line of men he had not seen in a long time. We were good friends for many years, but the same thing that brought us together took us apart. The National D-Day Memorial.
For a number of years we were on the same team on the D-Day Memorial board. He was the Chairman and I was the Secretary. The craziness of mid June 2001 and beyond is so different for me and for the way things happened. It will always be a turning point in my life. We resigned from the board together in the fall of 2001. When the two Federal trials came about, Bob and I parted company. I had too many documents in my hands that gave me a differing opinion of what happened there. I never lost respect for Bob Slaughter and he was among a few involved that I feel that way about almost 11 years later.
He was a dedicated worker from the moment I met him in the early 90s–matter of fact I was expecting my son Zach who graduates next week, so it’s been almost 19 years ago. Back then the board and dream was so small that the late Milton Aliff and I sold D-Day pins at Cave Spring Kroger purchased and delivered with money we took up and returned to the Slaughter’s house. Finally it was all the way with George Bush, the President of the United States of America, as he walked down the concrete sidewalk beside of Bob. Bob’s mission was complete on June 6, 2001. The National D-Day Memorial became a reality.
I met him literally from a flyer I posted next to the men’s room at the Hardees on Brambleton Ave. One of his friends hooked us up after I interviewed the other guy. I spent many an hour interviewing Bob for an oral history project that I had in graduate school at Hollins University. I was mesmerized by his story as much as I was all of the other WWII veterans including my Dad and two uncles, one of whom was also a 29er. I was fortunate to attend a couple of Co. D reunions with him and met more D-Day survivors. No one was as ever committed to the project of a memorial as Bob Slaughter. I can recall hustling across a hayfield hillside with hundreds of Bedford Elementary School children after the land for the memorial was acquired. Dust and grass hoppers filled the air, but I could still see Bob Slaughter in the lead, taller than the rest, so close to his dream striding across that field.
And so today Sgt. Slaughter made the final beach head. One hundred years from now the world will look at The National D- Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia and see the regular GI Joe and what he did for the liberation of millions of people across the broad Atlantic Ocean. What they may not understand is that the survivors of D- Day lead by Bob Slaughter, represented a group of men and women whose “can do attitude” not only freed a continent of tyranny, they came home, built lives, had families and yet never forgot what happened.
Bob lead a charge so we nor those a hundred years from now will ever forget the sacrifice, the bravery of D-Day. He had the foresight and drive to keep history before our eyes. A National D-Day Memorial on a hill top with flying flags and whispering winds of those who defended the free world so that we may never forget as well.
Good-bye, Bob — rest in peace.
See the rest of ya next week.