French Teacher/ Belgian Exchange Organizer
Smith Middle School
Seventy-one years ago, U.S. Navy World War II veteran Ed Chappell beached his Landing Craft Tank (LCT 587) six times on Omaha Beach on D-Day 1944...
With her journal tucked in her arm, eighth-grade student LeAnne Ding kneels quietly where Mr. Chappell landed, reflecting on historical events that included this brave man she had met a year earlier. Except for the quiet slapping of waves on a peaceful beach, silence reigned as words of reverence, honor and pride were recorded in thirty-one students’ journals. They will always remember.
When they reached the look-out point of Omaha Beach and gazed over the unremitting rows of white crosses and Stars of David at the American Cemetery, eighth- and ninth-grade students gave thanks to Mr. Chappell and Mr. Sumner (WWII veteran who fought at the Battle of the Bulge) as well as to all veterans whose bravery brought us freedom. Just a few months ago these students participated in Smith Middle School’s fifteen-year Belgian Exchange program and traveled to Belgium to stay with their pen pals and Normandy to learn more about WWII.
Eighth-grade student Zoe Volmer reflects:
Normandy was a tidal wave of emotions. I’ve never felt that conflicted emotionally in my life. Going to Omaha Beach, the cemetery and the D-Day museum in one day, was almost too much. But just almost. Normandy was where I found out the most about myself. When I walked onto Omaha Beach, that’s where it started. As I was walking on the beach, I realized that life was too short. You have one life, and as far as you know, it could end tomorrow. The sacrifices that those men laid out on those beaches is unbelievable. I couldn’t look at the water without thinking of the red ocean and hundreds of thousands of men, boats and tanks. The devastation didn’t seem real until I set foot on those beaches. And the feelings were confirmed when we were in the cemetery. Seeing the length of the rows of graves really hit me.
On May 2, 2015, Ed Chappell passed - just hours after the CHCCS students (who had taken him back to Normandy for the 70th Commemoration Ceremony last June) had visited him at the Durham Veterans Hospital. Mr. Chappell’s legacy will live on in the stories recorded by the CHCCS teens in a future NC-to-Normandy documentary to be shared with the public this fall. Through their words and actions, it is evident our young people do honor those who sacrifice for our liberty.
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