We are four high school students driven to honor the sacrifice of all veterans.
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We have completed our dream of taking two veterans back to the lands they liberated in France and Belgium – not without amazing community support through donations and general advice.
Below are articles to learn more about the events leading up to our living history adventure June 01-June 08.
Click here for some pictures of our journey
|Here we are having fun taking selfies in the airport!
Click here from some pictures – these are just the beginning!This video is a huge THANK YOU to the European Union for funding our first trip to France in 2011 when we were students at Smith Middle School. We are also thanking all our community donors who gave so generously to our NC to Normandy trip this year June 01-08, 2014. Check out our blog to learn how it impacted the students. Click here for Envoys of Honor: Serving our Veterans
Below are two of many veterans we are honoring through memory:
Antonio Marimpietri fought in Normandy, France and Belgium and Vince Norako fought in the Pacific. Their hats come from the museum in Bastogne which honors McAuliffe’s famous response when asked by the German General to surrender: “NUTS”.
The Liberators of Europe we traveled with through Belgium and France
WWII Veteran Ed Chappell visits Smith Middle School. He gives up his cane to connect with middle school students
OUR MISSON: To be a visible symbol of youth connecting the past with the future by honoring the sacrifice of our World War II Veterans. We are committed to sharing our heroes’ stories as well as our experience in our local communities as well as in Europe by attending the final official D-Day commemoration in Normandy June 1-8, 2014.
To serve our veterans, we will:
Thank you for the village of Amfreville who welcomed us with open arms!! We stayed in tents while our veterans were hosted by a French family in the village…Thank you for helping us FLY with our veterans!
Our shadows as we stand above the craters at Pointe du Hoc. 2011[/caption]
WHAT WE DID:
– Assisted in putting flags on graves with the VFW post 1900 on Memorial Day
-Attended the final official commemoration of World War II Veterans in Normandy.
-Connected to veterans back at home in the states through technology so we can merge their stories with ours.
-Are giving community presentations upon our return to share our experience with interested community groups, especially on Veterans Day.
-Met with our Belgian pen pals, who we have kept up with since seventh grade, in Normandy to make this experience international.
-Partnered with the following organizations: Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), The Durham Veterans Administration, The American Legion, and The American Battles Monuments Commission (ABMC).
THANK YOU FOR HELPING US REACH OUR GOALS:
-Promoting our mission and spreading awareness of our unique mission.
OUR STORIES: Our desire to connect with veterans and learn more about the impact of war has brought us back together again after three years in different high schools. As 8th graders at Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill, we had the unique opportunity to travel together to Belgium on an exchange program that was largely funded by the European Union. We stayed with our pen pals’ families from Liege and visited Henri Chapelle Cemetery, the American Cemetery, Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc in Normandy. This year (as 11th graders) while volunteering at our former middle school, we shared stories from our travels and discovered how much we wanted to return to Normandy with the veterans and their families who sacrificed so much for freedom in a foreign land. With strong French language skills, we imagine ourselves escorting courageous veterans back to France for the D-Day Commemoration in June; it would be an honor for us to them serve them. We would become a visible symbol of youth connecting the past to the present and share their stories in our local communities as well as with the families of our Belgian pen pals.
It was three years ago that I had the opportunity to go and see the graves at Normandy. It was also three years ago that I had to think about what had actually happened on those beaches, the lives that were lost and the utter destruction that those who had lived had seen. It was supposed to be a trip so I could further my knowledge of the French language and culture, but I found myself delving into the very depths of my own character. Walking through the rows upon rows of alabaster stone brought me to the understanding to what sacrifice truly was, to what true loyalty was.
I had walked the halls of my grandfather’s house when I was younger and never really got the background behind the medals that were hung on the wall. It came to me as I walked through the grass of the gravestones. I had grown appreciation not just for what my grandfather had done for his country, but the thousands who lost their lives on that very beach. What I had told myself was if I ever had the chance to give back to the veterans, I would not waste a moment.
The feeling of walking the beaches of Normandy and picturing the courage our veterans had in order to be able to climb the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc while facing snipers at the top of the cliffs is a feeling that has stayed with me ever since. When I was 14 years old I traveled, along with my French class, to Normandy for the first time as part of a Belgian Exchange program. The impact of standing on the site where our veterans made incredible sacrifice has left me with an ever-lasting sense of honor and pride in being an American. While staying in Belgium, my host family took me to the American cemetery outside of Liege, called Henri Chappelle. Seeing the hundreds of rows of white crosses symbolizing the lives of our nation’s brave souls was both heart-wrenching and inspiring. I experienced this feeling as a young teen, and to be able to go back as a young adult would impact my life on multiple levels. I have a more mature outlook on the events that occurred seventy years ago and going this summer would give me an opportunity to honor our veterans on a more personal level. I have also grown in my French speaking skills and hope to pursue a career in teaching it someday. This interest in the language will help me to aid the veterans in their travel experience through France.
I grew up hearing stories of battles from WWII from my grandfather and eight great uncles who all served in WWII. My great uncle Ezra, who is still living, received a purple heart for his service in Italy during WWII, and to be able to honor first hand what my ancestors and other brave veterans went through is incredible. His bravery and courage has inspired me to accompany other veterans and learn about their stories. Over the years, my appreciation and pride for veterans who have risked their lives for our country has grown immensely and it would be life-changing to be able to walk through the battle sites of WWII with them.
Graham Austin -16 year old junior at East Chapel Hill High School -Studied French for 5 years -Grandfather was in the Air Force and was stationed in Germany. He was also the Dean of Uniform Services University. I am a 16 year old junior who is an honors student at ECHHS. Both my grandfathers served in the military and one was stationed in Germany and was the Dean of the Uniform Services University of the Health Sciences. Having grown up learning about the sacrifices that our soldiers made during World War II, it was an amazing experience to see the beaches of Normandy and spend time in the American Cemetery at Normandy. Later in the trip I also had the opportunity to visit the Mardasson Memorial of the Battle of the Bulge, in Belgium, with my host family. It was powerful to see the respect the family had for the soldiers and especially the grandparents who lived through the occupation. Since my experiences on that trip, I have spent time reading and learning about WWII. To be able to have the chance to return to these hallowed grounds would be truly unforgettable. Thank you for taking an interest in our goal of gaining and giving appreciation to our veterans. Sarah McMahon -17 year old junior at East Chapel Hill High School -Studied French for 5 years
I grew up idolizing my grandfathers who were both in the Air Force, and to be able to honor their lives as veterans is incredible. Since I was born, my family has been friends with two WWII veterans named Tony Marimpietri and Vincent Norako who fought in Normandy and the Pacific respectively. Tony and Vince recently passed, and I only hope to be able to make this journey to commemorate their sacrifice and that of all other veterans. I have attended Veterans day celebrations at the VFW along with Tony, Vince, and my mother, and loved listening to the different stories these people had to tell. Going to Europe in 2011 and seeing first-hand the effect of war has deepened my understanding of our American Soldiers’ sacrifice. While in Belgium and France, I experienced an intense sense of pride in being an American as I visited American cemeteries and saw how appreciative Europeans were of our troops. My pen pal, whom I stayed with in 2011, brought me to Henri Chapelle, an American cemetery in Belgium. Her father, being a historian, taught me all about the American troops that gave their lives fighting for French and Belgian liberation. I have never felt more proud to be an American than in those moments. I learned so much from her father, and I can not even begin to imagine how much I could learn from accompanying veterans to the 70th D-Day celebration. I want to serve our veterans because they have done so much for our country, and I love hearing their stories. We, as a group, can help them navigate through France since we have all studied French for over 5 years now and have connections to people living in France. To go back to Normandy alongside those who risked their lives for our country is a once in a lifetime opportunity. On our return from the D-Day Celebration, our group will share all that we have learned with our high schools, give presentations to the local VFW post and share reflections on this website. Hugh Kelley -16 year old junior at Chapel Hill High School -Studied French for 5 years
I have been learning about America’s sacrifice on the beaches of Normandy throughout my life. Being informed on what those men went through was special in class, but it became a personal reality when my 8th grade french class took a trip to the beaches. Although sharing this experience with my classmates was great, it did not provide the opportunity that this summer will. Our overall goal is to connect with World War II veterans and then ultimately show that our generation still believes that World War II is a huge part of Americas past time.
My great grandfather, John Ballantine Lightfoot, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the army on September 16th, 1918 for World war II, when at the time he was still in High School. Although I never met him, thinking that he was around the age that I am now is pretty unbelievable. After this trip I will not only share a middle name with him but also a personal World War experience.
To Learn more about students traveling to Normandy, watch this UNC TV documentary – the Normandy portion begins at 12 min.