D-Day document brings together two families in Bedford

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BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) -- They came to view a single sheet of paper.

Relatives of Bob Slaughter and Tony Cascagne gathered at the National D-Day Memorial Friday morning, where they inspected a copy of General Eisenhower's Order of the Day, his message to the troops before the Normandy invasion.

"I wonder what Bob put that in to keep it intact," someone asked. "I think it said he put it in a plastic bag and kept it in his pocket," another replied.

Bob Slaughter is considered the founder of the National D-Day Memorial. In 1944, he was 19 years old when he asked fellow soldiers to sign his copy as they waited for the landing to begin.

The 75 names included the signature of Tony Cascagne.

Members of his family only learned of the document about a year ago.

Gerald Cascagne is Tony Cascagne's grandson.

"Reading these names you realize that my grandfather knew these people and not many people did," Cascagne said, "and especially since so many of them died before they even made it onto the beach."

Phil Slaughter is Bob Slaughter's nephew.

"You know there are faces and lives behind each and every one of these signatures," he said.

The Order of the Day was recently restored, and the National D-Day Memorial considers it one of its prized artifacts.

"Of the 75 men who signed Bob's order of the day, 11 of them died within a couple of hours on Omaha Beach," said John Long, the D-Day Memorial's Director of Education. "11 more died later on in the campaign. I believe it was Bob's D-Day Memorial before he ever built the D-Day memorial."

One day, Long said, the National D-Day Memorial plans to build a museum, and the Order of the Day will be a centerpiece of its collection.