BEDFORD, Va. -

Under the cover of a large canopy, D-Day veterans enjoyed an afternoon picnic Thursday on the lawn of the memorial built in their honor.

At age 99, Frank Kogut of Delray Beach, Florida was the oldest member of the group.

"I think this is one of the nicest things that ever happened to me," Kogut said.

Seeing hundreds of men like Kogut in Bedford for the 70th anniversary of D-Day is a dream fulfilled for Ash Rothlein.

"I never wanted them to ever be forgotten," said Rothlein, a D-Day veteran who landed on Omaha Beach in the weeks following the initial June 6, 1944 invasion.

"My first site of being in the war was a makeshift graveyard with 2,500 temporary white cross sticks, of all those who died on D-Day," Rothlein recalled.

Rothlein's memory motivated him to gather as many surviving comrades as he could find.

He wanted them present in Bedford, to honor those who gave their lives on D-Day.

"They made it possible for us to move up and move ahead," Rothlein said.

As a personal tribute, Rothlein is making a sacrifice of his own.  He donated $25,000 to help build "Homage," a statue honoring the famous Bedford Boys.

On Friday Rothlein will pin his French Legion of Honor medal to the sculpture.

"It will rest here on this statue for eternity, where it belongs," said Rothlein.  "They are the true heroes who allowed the rest of us to be here today."

A plaque on the "Homage" statue will tell visitors about Rothlein's contribution.  He'll help dedicate the sculpture at the end of Friday''s 70th anniversary ceremony.