This summer I was fortunate to experience a trip of a lifetime as I travelled to the Normandy Region of France. The trip was planned and sponsored by the Juno Beach Center. It has become apparent to members of the JBC that Canadian knowledge, and recognition, of the valiant effort of Canadian soldiers and their role in the global conflict of WWI and WWII, has waned. The mandate of the organization, aside from keeping the memory of the Juno Beach campaign and the soldier’s sacrifices alive, is to promote education about all Canadian contributions surrounding these two global conflicts. The trip included twenty teachers from across the nation as well as a veteran of the Afghan War, 2 representatives of the Juno Beach Centre and a military historian. Over the course of the eleven day experience I was able to see WWI sites including Beaumont-Hamel (the site of the ill-fated battle of the Newfoundland 1st Regiment in the Battle of the Somme where they were decimated in a matter of hours), the awe-inspiring memorial at Vimy Ridge, Wellington Quarry (where over 24,000 British and Canadian soldiers lived underground prior to the battle of Vimy) and Cabaret Rouge Canadian Cemetery including the grave of the Unknown Soldier who is now laid to rest in Ottawa. In regards to WWII sites, we travelled to Dieppe and gained a clearer understanding of how the massacre was preventable and inevitable. We experienced Canada House, the first occupied building liberated on D-day, Pegasus Bridge, the bunkers and tunnels of Juno Beach, Omaha Beach and Mulberry harbour at Arromanches. We were fortunate to spend time with locals who had lived under Nazi occupation and it became incredibly evident that the sacrifices of the Canadian soldiers were necessary, heroic and life-saving. The group of us participated in Remembrance Ceremonies, spent time with veterans and were treated incredibly well simply because we are Canadian. It was incredible to witness the amount of French locals who know every word of our anthem and adorn their homes in Canadian flags simply because they remember and appreciate the sacrifice of our soldiers. In many cases, and sadly to say, the French appreciate the loss of Canadian soldiers and their gift far more than we as Canadians. It is something we certainly have an obligation and responsibility to change within this school and community. Although I would love to say far more, and I hope to share all these stories and more with my students, I have to thank Juno Beach Centre and LCS for supporting me in this endeavour. Lastly, I was able to see and give thanks at the grave of Mr. Clarence Bourassa, a soldier from WWII laid to rest at Bretteville Canadian Cemetery and from the town of Lafleche. That was one of the most emotional moments during the trip because in that instant I understood the journey he made, and the sacrifice of so many of our local men and women. How different would our world and community be if only every soldier had been able to make it home? Or better yet, if war was something we never experienced?
Mrs. de Graauw