Recently, ExecutiveBiz spoke with John Epperly, president of DMI Federal, about the honor to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and speak at the National Guard monument on Omaha Beach on Thursday. In addition, Epperly discussed the impact the Virginia National Guard had on D-Day and how the events shaped the town of Vierville-sur-Mer, France.
“I don't like to see history be forgotten.“
ExecutiveBiz: With the 75th anniversary of D-Day event coming up in France, what does it mean to you to speak at the National Guard monument in Omaha Beach to honor the memory of our fallen soldiers?
“I'm a National Guard officer. I'm what you would call a citizen soldier. I've got my regular job and I'm a Major General in the National Guard. I command the 29th Infantry Division. Our division is comprised of roughly 18,000 soldiers. It means the world to me to be the spokesman for all the ones that came before me and the ones who completed an incredible feat of military arms on D-Day.
It's an incredible honor to talk about their story and share it with a new generation because it's a very important story. I kind of view it more as a responsibility as a commander to be that link in the chain that passes on that story to future generations so their sacrifice won't be forgotten.“
ExecutiveBiz: For those who aren't aware, can you elaborate on the heroics of the Virginia National Guard during D-Day?
“Bedford, Virginia had more casualties per capita than any other town in America. The National D-Day Memorial is located in Bedford for that reason. The moniker “The Bedford Boys“ was given to Alpha company, 116th Infantry, which was a part of the 29th Infantry Division on D-Day. They were the young soldiers in those landing crafts and took the heavy fire during the initial hours on Omaha Beach.
Naturally, the Virginia National Guard plays a major role in this event every year because they were the ones who were there at the beginning of D-Day. Our battle lineage goes all the way from World War I and 1917 through D-Day, World War II and to the present day.“
ExecutiveBiz: Since the events of D-Day, how have the relationships changed amongst the townspeople of Vierville-sur-Mer, France over the last 75 years?
“The history and pride of the townspeople is a very emotional thing. There are people alive today who were children when the allies invaded. They're in their senior years now, but they remember and it's emotional. They're trying to preserve the history, which is great because I don't like to see history being forgotten.
When I gave my speech last year, it was like being a rock star. They see your uniform and you're a part of something so iconic to their liberty and freedom. If you’ve never been liberated, you don’t know what that's like. If you’re a population that’s been liberated, it just carries on through the generations for a long time. I can tell you that fire has yet to burn out in France.“
As president of DMI Federal, Epperly is responsible for all service delivery operations, business development and growth initiatives in the federal market space. Prior to joining DMI, he served as the executive vice president of Coalfire Federal.
Epperly has extensive experience as a senior leader with a number of companies including Booz Allen Hamilton, Verizon Business, Elbit Systems of America and MCI Telecommunications. In addition, Epperly is a Major General in the U.S. Army and the Army National Guard. He commands the 29th Infantry Division headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.