Ontario students to honour those who made the 'ultimate sacrifice' on D-Day
Published Wednesday, May 28, 2014 10:02PM EDT
Seventy years after allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, students from an Ontario high school will join thousands of veterans, dignitaries and politicians in France to honour Canadian troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in war.
A group of students from Port Hope High School are travelling to Europe to mark the anniversary of D-Day, a battle that is considered the beginning of the end of Adolf Hitler’s hold on western Europe.
Veterans and their families have already started to arrive in France for special ceremonies, which will be held June 5 and 6.
D-Day is considered the greatest amphibious assault in human history. Approximately 14,000 Canadian troops were among the allies who fought on that fateful day in June, 1944.
Student Kaitlin Calbery said she and her schoolmates will be visiting Italy to see the graves of soldiers who attended her high school, before making their way to France for the D-Day ceremonies.
“We’re going to try and make a bunch of stops to honour our dead on the way there as well,” Calbery told CTV News Channel Wednesday.
Calbery has previously visited Vimy Ridge in France, where she had the opportunity to research and find the graves of fallen soldiers who had attended her high school.
“To find them and perhaps be the first ones to visit, it was just such an emotional experience for me because in a small town like Port Hope, you feel like everyone’s family, and to see them so forgotten -- when Europe has not forgotten our sacrifice -- it was just so emotional to finally be able to see them. They were just so young.”
This is the first visit to France for fellow student Mac Evans, who says he’s expecting it to be an “emotional trip.”
“The soldiers gave the ultimate sacrifice for me, and everybody in our country, to live the way we do now,” he said.
Evans said it was “mind-boggling” to imagine travelling overseas to fight in a war at his age.
“Now you wouldn’t have to do something like that, and no one would really worry about being discriminated (against) for not going,” he said.
Port Hope history teacher April Simmons said it’s important for young people to see firsthand “the sheer scale” and commitment of their ancestors.
“I would argue that students are more removed from history than they’ve ever been before,” she said. “We’ve had many generations of people, including my own, that have never really had to see sacrifice on the scale that we did as country in the first and second world war.”
Simmons said her students do have some understanding of the military, due to Port Hope’s close proximity to the Canadian Forces base in Trenton, Ont.
“We have an intimate connection there, and I think my students are going to represent pretty well,” Simmons said.