President Barack Obama will campaign in Roanoke tonight, marking the first time a sitting president has held an event here since 1977. We’ll flashback throughout the day to other occasions that presidents have visited Roanoke. We’ll kick it off, however, with a flashback to the last time Obama held an event in Roanoke as a candidate.
Thursday, June 7, 2001
VIRGINIANS GIVE PRESIDENT A WARM WELCOME
‘EVERYBODY’S BEEN CALLING EVERYBODY ALL THE WAY DOWN THE ROAD’
Summary: About 100 people were at the Roanoke Regional Airport hoping to see President Bush get off Air Force One.
By RACHEL CLARKE THE ROANOKE TIMES
MONTVALE — Sightseers roamed around the airport and lingered along the edge of U.S. 460 for hours Wednesday, hoping to catch just a glimpse of President George W. Bush.
Diane Branham, the owner of Mama’s Home Cooking in Montvale, said almost every customer and employee in her restaurant ran outside when the president’s motorcade came by. “We had a big crowd out there waving, the kids and everybody,” she said. Branham put red, white and blue flowers and several American flags in front of Mama’s the day before, after she heard President Bush might come by.
Branham made plans with her neighbors to ensure that she wouldn’t miss the motorcade. A friend up the road called Branham when the president passed by her house, and then Branham called someone farther down the road to give her notice. “Everybody’s been calling everybody all the way down the road,” she said.
Some local residents opted instead to peek at President Bush at the Roanoke Regional Airport, where he landed in Air Force One.
Will Meeks, a teacher at the Minnick Education Center, brought his seventh- and eighth-grade students out to see the president because they were in the area anyway to tour the center’s new building.
“We thought we’d come here and then go by and see the new school,” Meeks said. “We learned about D-Day in class, and Richard Burrow came to speak to us.” Burrow is executive director of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation.
Meeks said he thought the trip was worthwhile because a president might not come back to this area for years. “It’s a pretty exciting thing for Roanoke,” he said.
Several of the 100 or so people who were waiting at the airport said it was their second choice for a spot to see President Bush in person.
“We were going to the D-Day Memorial, but we were running too late and they closed it down, so we decided to come here instead,” said Larry Lamanca, who came with his brother and two friends. Lamanca, who owns American Door & Glass, gave himself and his employees the day off because the dedication of the memorial was an important event for the Roanoke area. “It’s really a great thing they’ve done in Bedford,” he said.
Ron Wood, who was waiting at the airport with his 8-year-old daughter Mandy, thought the memorial was so important that he took Mandy out of school for the day. After they were turned away at the dedication ceremony, they came to the airport so she could at least get a glimpse of the president, he said.
Wood said he has seen Presidents Ford, Reagan and Clinton in person, and he would like Mandy to see a few as well. “You’ve got a long life ahead of you and a lot of presidents – but we’ll start now,” he told her. Wood still plans to take his daughter to see the memorial within the next couple weeks.
Lita Long, who home-schools her four children, brought her family as one of their lessons for the day. She said they saw President Bush come out of Air Force One and wave to the crowd. Although they only saw the president for a few seconds, Long thought the wait was worth it. “He’s the president,” she said. “Everything is a learning event – it was historical.”
Illustration: Photo – 1 KELLY HAHN JOHNSON THE ROANOKE TIMES Diane Branham, “Mama” of Mama’s Home Cooking (left) and some of her employees and customers wave at the president at he travels through Montvale toward Roanoke. Next to Branham (from the left) are Mary Meadows, Kody Kanode, Donnie Orange and Rhonda Vermeulin. COLOR Photo – 2 KELLY HAHN JOHNSON THE ROANOKE TIMES Spectators wave at the presidential motorcade as it travels west along U.S. 460 in Montvale following the president’s speech at the dedication of the National D-Day Memorial. COLOR 3. Hoping to see Air Force One, residents gather on an airport access road and search the skies at the Roanoke Regional Airport. In the front center (with glasses) is David Helmer. Ray Austin is at front right. KELLY HAHN JOHNSON THE ROANOKE TIMES
More stories about Bush’s visit and the dedication after the jump. There’s a package still online, too:
‘THEY DID NOT YEARN TO BE HEROES’
‘UPON THIS BEAUTIFUL TOWN FELL THE HEAVIEST SHARE OF AMERICAN LOSSES ON D-DAY – 19 MEN FROM A COMMUNITY OF 3,200, FOUR MORE AFTERWARDS,’ PRESIDENT BUSH SAID IN HIS ADDRESS. ‘WHEN PEOPLE COME HERE, IT IS IMPORTANT TO SEE THE TOWN AS THE MONUMENT ITSELF. HERE WERE THE IMAGES THESE SOLDIERS CARRIED WITH THEM, AND THE THOUGHT OF WHEN THEY WERE AFRAID. THIS IS THE PLACE THEY LEFT BEHIND. AND HERE WAS THE LIFE THEY DREAMED OF RETURNING TO. . . .’
By JAY CONLEY AND MIKE ALLEN
BEDFORD — This time, they arrived by bus, climbing down slowly on a hot, humid and sunny day, nearly six decades after the horrific ordeal that proved their heroism in a battle that changed the world.
They were marked by their uniforms, some with medals, many wearing overseas caps, that identified them as veterans.
Decades earlier, on June 6, 1944, they had manned battleships, or rushed off boats into the cold sea, or parachuted behind enemy lines near Normandy, France – soldiers in the greatest land, sea and air invasion in history.
The horror, sorrow, fear and heroism were recalled as that generation of men who waited 57 years to be recognized were honored Wednesday at the dedication of the National D-Day Memorial.
The two-hour ceremony came after a 14-year, $14 million crusade by Roanoke D-Day veteran Bob Slaughter. It was a pageant of patriotism. Small American flags, some carried by hand, others waving from veterans’ hats, dotted the memorial’s middle plaza where all of the thousands of seats were taken by 9 a.m.
The skies were filled with the soft rumble of World War II-era P-51 Mustang fighters, and, at the end, the thunder of F-15 jets, which passed over in a missing man formation.
Music from a military band started the program. It ended with the echoing booms of a 21-cannon salute and the soulful, spine-tingling mourn of taps from a lone bugle.
President Bush, who delivered the keynote address, was visibly moved by the ceremony. By some accounts, a tear rolled down his cheek as he spoke. By others, his lower lip quivered.
“You have raised a fitting memorial to D-Day, and you have put it in just the right place – not on a battlefield of war, but in a small Virginia town, a place like so many others that were home to the men and women who helped liberate a continent,” the president said.
“Upon this beautiful town fell the heaviest share of American losses on D-Day . . . When people come here, it is important to see the town as the monument itself.”
Wednesday’s event was the second big gathering at the D-Day Memorial. The first was last year, on Memorial Day, when the 44-foot-tall Overlord Arch was dedicated, but the sprawling granite and concrete memorial had hardly been begun.
Last year, veterans were teary eyed and somber. This year, after weeks of rain, the morning’s bright sunshine cast a celebratory glow. Veterans arrived hours before the ceremony began, smiling and laughing.
They were the stars of the show. Those who weren’t signing the programs of young girls and boys three generations younger were posing for photographs or giving interviews to hundreds of American and international journalists.
As Thomas Mayhew waited in line about 8 a.m. to enter the memorial, the 80-year-old Franklin County resident reflected how the recent attention to D-Day helped him to start talking about his own experiences.
An anti-aircraft gunner in D-Day’s fourth wave, he recalled that as soon as the boat he landed in was emptied of soldiers, it was filled with the wounded.
Carl Lampe, 82, traveled from Ohio to join about 10 members of the 29th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop. They stood out in line with their bright blue “29 Let’s Go” caps.
Lampe lost his helmet on the beach in D-Day. Before shrapnel struck him in the head and knocked him unconscious, he recalled trying to take a helmet off a soldier lying on the ground, motionless. When the man opened his eyes, Lampe told him, “I’m sorry, I thought you were dead.”
At least one veteran felt a bitterness that the memorial couldn’t assuage. Gordy Smith of Chesterfield County said he still found his experiences in World War II too painful to talk about. As for the memorial, he said, “It’s 57 years late.”
When the ceremony began, 16,000 people were there to pay tribute to the largest massing of D-Day veterans since the invasion’s 50th anniversary in Normandy in 1994. Much of the crowd had left their homes before dawn to make it to the memorial in time to get one of 11,000 folding chairs put in place earlier in the week.
“I am especially grateful to see several generations here,” said Slaughter, the memorial foundation’s chairman who has worked to educate younger generations about the men and mission behind the invasion.
“Today a dream has really come true,” said Del. Lacey Putney of Bedford. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime celebration for this community.”
The most poignant moment came toward the end of the two-hour ceremony as the veterans stood to face President Bush as the U.S. Navy Band played Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” followed by taps.
Bush, who is shortly to leave this country on a foreign mission to Europe, touched on strong American-European relations during his keynote address. “When there is conflict in Europe, America is affected, and cannot stand by,” he said.
Bush also paid tribute to the older brothers of Lucille Boggess – Raymond and Bedford Hoback who died on D-Day. Boggess is the chairwoman of the Bedford County Board of Supervisors.
“She has recalled that Raymond was offered an early discharge for health reasons,” Bush said, “but he turned it down. He didn’t want to leave his brother, she remembers. He had come over with him, and he was going to stay with him.”
Kansas sculptor Jim Brothers used Raymond Hoback as his inspiration for “Death on Shore,” which depicts a wounded soldier with a Bible falling from his pack. That was Hoback’s Bible, and it was the only trace of him ever found on Omaha Beach.
Bush was introduced by Gov. Jim Gilmore.
The ceremony began with music, invocations and welcoming. Then 20 D-Day veterans read other veterans’ written accounts of the invasion.
What followed were more readings, many of them infused into history: Eisenhower’s D-Day order, a prayer by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a passage from Anne Frank’s diary and Winston Churchill’s D-Day announcement.
By the time people dispersed at the ceremony’s end, Gordy Smith, the veteran who had seemed fiercely bitter earlier, seemed in a lighter mood. “It was worth it,” he said. He particularly enjoyed the speeches by Gilmore and Bush. He even talked a little of his Army service during the war, and how he loaded planes for Berlin air lifts after World War II.
“They should have done something for the Bedford guys a long time ago,” he said.
Frank Johnson, a 79-year-old D-Day veteran, said, “It just brought back an awful lot of memories.”
During the cannon salute, “I almost climbed under my chair,” Johnson said. He called the memorial “very realistic” and said it evokes what he experienced: “The sadness, the grimness, the pain.”
As he emerged from the middle plaza with his fellow D-Day veterans, Tom Linneman talked about how he was proud to have served in the Army’s 29th Division – the same division to which the slain soldiers of Bedford belonged.
On Wednesday, which happens to be Linneman’s birthday, he turned 79. On the real D-Day, he turned 22, and his brother, Jack, was killed.
Linneman said he would always consider the memorial’s dedication, not as a day to celebrate, but as a day of remembering sacrifices.
Illustration: Photo – 1 NATALEE WATERS THE ROANOKE TIMES Unidentified veteran COLOR 2. ERIC BRADY THE ROANOKE TIMES About 16,000 people attended the dedication ceremony for the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford. President Bush said, “You have raised a fitting memorial to D-Day, and you have put it in just the right place – not on a battlefield of war, but in a small Virginia town, a place like so many others that were home to the men and women who helped liberate a continent.” COLOR
ICE CREAM SHOP’S HOPES MELT AS BUSH MAKES LIKE A BANANA AND SPLITS TOWN
Summary: A visit by Secret Service agents Tuesday prompted rumors that the president would stop in for a treat.
By JOANNE POINDEXTER
BEDFORD — Tammy Jones was so overwhelmed at the thought of meeting President Bush that she could hardly keep orders straight and count change at Twistee Treat Ice Cream Parlor on Wednesday afternoon.
She said her heart thumped and her blood pressure shot up when she thought she might have to scoop a cone of yogurt or ice cream for the president.
Unfortunately, Bush was a no-show at Twistee Treat, an ice cream stand that’s combined with a dry cleaners and laundry facility in the Westgate Shopping Center on the city’s western end. Bush’s motorcade bypassed the shopping center on its way back to Roanoke Regional Airport.
Jones was a little relieved but disappointed.
If the president had shown up, “I probably would have fallen out,” she said a couple of hours after the president spoke during the dedication of the National D-Day Memorial, which is within walking distance of the ice cream parlor.
A Tuesday visit by four Secret Service agents to the ice cream parlor and other businesses in the shopping center off Blue Ridge Avenue prompted rumors that the president might stop in for something cool after his speech.
Jones manages the ice cream parlor and the connecting Westgate Clean Center. She was startled Tuesday when she looked up from getting coffee from under the counter to see the agents on the other side.
“I wasn’t expecting it. They asked my name, and I realized who they were. I was so nervous,” Jones said Wednesday as she waited to see whether Bush would actually stop in.
“They came in and just kind of looked around,” Jones said. She couldn’t remember what questions the agents asked her.
“Everybody got excited,” Jones said.
Only one customer was in the laundry center Wednesday as Jones watched the dedication ceremonies on TV with co-worker Carl Johnson.
Jones’ panic didn’t begin until after Bush concluded his speech and she saw people trooping across the shopping center’s parking lot. She then realized she might meet the president.
“I’m so nervous,” she said, asking what she should say if he came in.
As she started taking orders for slushes and ice cream cones from people talking about the memorial dedication, Jones was hit with a case of the jitters. She had to ask customers to repeat their orders. At one point, she had to recount change.
“He’s like, the man. I’d really like to meet him. This is the closest I’ve ever been to a president,” said Jones, who moved to Bedford earlier this year after her husband retired from the Army. “I voted for him.”
Saturday, June 16, 2001:
LACK OF WELCOME FOR BUSH QUESTIONED
MAYOR SMITH WANTED TO GREET BUSH
Summary: Quite a few questions why no one was at the Roanoke airport to greet the United States’ top executive.
By TODD JACKSON
Some expected the city to roll out the red carpet for President Bush when he flew into the Roanoke Regional Airport last week to grab a limousine ride out to the opening of Bedford’s National D-Day Memorial.
But there was little fanfare when Bush stepped off Air Force One June 6. With television news cameras recording his every move for live broadcast, Bush stood around for several minutes before getting inside the limousine. His body motions and expressions made it appear to some that he was waiting for someone or something to happen as the 98-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., a D-Day veteran, was helped down the stairway from the plane to the waiting limo.
“As I watched President Bush step out of Air Force One and descend the steps, I was shocked that no one was there to officially greet him,” wrote Roanoker Evelyn Kirk in a letter to the newspaper published this week. “Where were the mayor, the vice mayor or some city dignitary to welcome the president of the United States of America to Roanoke? He stood there alone, looking around, moving a bit. What else could he do when there was nobody to shake his hand and make him welcome?”
City Mayor Ralph Smith has heard a number of similar complaints, and offered an explanation Friday.
Smith said he attempted to set something up so he could greet Bush and possibly ride out to the Bedford ceremony with the president. But, according to Smith, the White House scheduling staff declined.
“It was decided that any secondary ceremony would detract from the recognition and honor being attributed to the veterans and families in attendance at the dedication in Bedford,” said Smith, who was in Bedford at the dedication when Bush arrived at the Roanoke airport.
Smith, who said he had hoped to greet Bush in Roanoke, did get to meet the president after all.
When the D-Day Memorial ceremony ended, Smith said he tried to catch up to Thurmond, who was part of Bush’s delegation, but Thurmond had just taken a seat in a limousine.
Smith said he turned around and was surprised to see Bush standing by himself nearby.
Smith, a Republican, said he and the president exchanged greetings, and the mayor welcomed the president to the Roanoke Valley.
“Hopefully, in the near future, the president will come back to Roanoke,” Smith said. “I would like to praise Bedford for being such an exemplary host of a historical event, and for the wonderful monument to the brave soldiers. The D-Day Memorial is a great asset to the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia.”