Keith Nightingale SPEECH
Friends of liberty, friends of democracy and friends of appreciation for the sacrifices that allow us to be here today-Welcome.
The AVA and American Legion have dedicated and preserved this unique piece of land in perpetuity to those that claimed it for all of us in blood. Their spirit truly rests here.
As we look at this seemingly insignificant country road and bridge in the peace of our land, we must reflect on what occurred here 77 years ago.
The area we now view was rent with explosions, bullets and blood. This and the sister bridge at Chef Du Pont were strategic objectives for the entire Liberation effort. From the 6th to the 9th of June, lives were spent to hold this ground and expand to the other side-the ultimate road to victory.
On the morning of the 9th, the Airborne leadership of General Ridgway, General Gavin and every numbered unit within the 82d was determined to seize this causeway and complete their last, unfulfilled mission.
Led by Captain John Saul, Company G, 3d Battalion, 325 Glider Infantry Regiment, the road was finally and permanently crossed. Of the 32 people that led the charge at 1030, only 11 remained standing at 1100.
General Ridgway and General Gavin personally led the attempts to reinforce Saul and were observed innumerable times in the heat of the battle and at great personal risk leading the effort.
Their spirit and example established the sanctity of this place.
Here, close within our sight, the sacrifice and honor that resides within this monument;
254 troopers were killed and 525 wounded, paying in blood for what we now enjoy.
This place is credited with being the bloodiest battle per square foot in the European Theatre.
Within this land, the 82d Airborne was awarded 2 Medals of Honor
38 Distinguished Service Crosses 271 Silver Stars
925 Bronze Stars
And most significantly, 5,209 Purple Hearts-more than half of the entire 82d Airborne assault force on D Day.
It is our honor and privilege to preserve this place of sacred honor and sacrifice.
The soul of the Airborne and the liberty they won for all of us resides where I stand.