Virginia’s ‘Bedford Boys’ carry history into deployment

Photos and story by 2nd Lt. Angela K. Fry
256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team public affairs
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq — More than 65 years after A Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment left its indelible mark on history in Normandy, its Soldiers deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

To history buffs, A Co. is referred to as the “Bedford Boys” because of the Virginia National Guard unit’s sacrifices on the beaches of Normandy with the 29th Infantry Regiment.

“The history of this company goes back to February 1941, when it was called into federal service as part of the 29th Infantry Regiment,” said 1st Sgt. Kevin Stewart, a Quitman, La. native with A Co. “However, it was the morning of June 6, 1944, as part of the Allied invasion that the unit first saw action.”

Stewart, a Veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and former active component Soldier, told the story of the 30 Bedford, Va., Soldiers who were the first infantrymen to hit the beaches of Normandy. On that one day, more than 2,500 U.S. service members lost their lives, he said.

“Bedford is claimed to have lost more men per capita on D-Day than any other town in the country,” Stewart said. “To honor the memories of these men, Congress placed the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford.”

The Soldiers with A Co. arrived at Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq, with the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

“I was excited when I found out that we were deploying with a brigade from Louisiana,” he said. “I was born in the Hodge Clinic, in Hodge, La., and I remember the National Guard armory in Jonesboro across the street from the old Wal-Mart.”

The deployment with the Louisiana Army National Guard’s Tiger Brigade marks the first time that A Co., 1st Bn., 116th Inf. Regt. will deploy under its own colors since the days of the Bedford Boys.

“It is truly an honor to serve in this unit,” said Capt. Miguel Lickliter, commander of A Co. and a Bedford, Va., native. “The Soldiers who came before us showed all of us the values of self-sacrifice, loyalty and duty. Their commitment to the mission and each other serves as a shining example for all Soldiers to emulate.”

Lickliter said his Soldiers take the sacrifices of the unit’s past Soldiers seriously.

“We are proud of our history, and we remain dedicated and steadfast to honor our past brothers-in-arms,” he said. “It gives us a lot of pride to be able to fly our colors as we serve our country.”

Stewart said with this deployment, the 1st Bn., 116th Inf. Regt.’s primary mission will be to provide convoy security in support of the drawdown of troops from Iraq.

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Virginia Army National Guardsmen with A Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) pose outside their armory in Bedford, Va., Jan. 5 before departing for Camp Shelby, Miss., for their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). (Courtesy photo provided by Tom Graves, Jr, of Central Virginia Images Photography)

 

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Virginia Army National Guardsmen with A Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment out of Bedford, Va., 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) load magazines for their M-4 rifles Feb. 1 during an advanced marksmanship exercise at Camp Shelby, Miss., during mobilization training for their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Angela K. Fry)

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Virginia Army National Guardsmen with A Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment out of Bedford, Va., 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) conduct advanced marksmanship training Feb. 1 at Camp Shelby, Miss., during mobilization training for their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Louisiana Army National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary). (U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Angela K. Fry)