CHIPPEWA FALLS — Alondra Harris is eager to see the beaches of Normandy because of the significance and history of the site.
“We hear all about it in history classes, but you don’t know the feeling until you’ve been there,” Harris said. “It’s just a whole new perspective you can’t get anywhere else, except from being there.”
Harris, 17, just completed her junior year at Chippewa Falls High School. She is among 73 Chippewa Falls travelers, representing all the grades in the high school, who will travel to France, England, Germany, Belgium and Austria from June 22 through July 5. The trip is focused on visiting Normandy beaches, the sites of the D-Day invasion 75 years ago this month.
“I have a long line of military in my family,” Harris said. “So for me, it’s a personal connection, to pay respect to those who served our country.”
Chippewa Falls High School history teacher John Kinville organized the trip, which he began planning 18 months ago.
“We’ve had a total of 40 Chippewa Falls High School students die in various wars, defending our country, going back to World War II,” Kinville said. “(This trip) connects the students with the sacrifice, and they realize what (the soldiers) gave up so we can do everyday things. It connects the past with the present.”
Over the past year, the students have done research on Wisconsin soldiers who fought in World War II. While no Chippewa Falls residents died in the Normandy invasion, about 100 soldiers from Wisconsin were among the dead, Kinville said. While in France, the students will place flags at the grave sites of those Wisconsin soldiers.
Kinville brought students to Normandy a decade ago, and he said it’s important for them to experience it.
“It’s the most humbling experience you can imagine,” Kinville said. “It’s the largest aquatic invasion in world history. Nothing short of western civilization was at stake.”
Egan Hill, 18, just graduated and will attend UW-Eau Claire this fall, and he’s excited about the spots they’ll see across the five countries. The stops include bunkers in England and the “Eagle’s Nest” in Germany where Adolf Hitler hid.
“It’s about getting out and trying new things, but it’s also respecting those who did things for us, and remembering their sacrifices,” Hill said.
Hill said he enjoys history classes and the work students did getting ready for the trip.
“We did research on the soldiers and learned more about who we are going to honor,” Hill said.
The National D-Day Memorial Foundation has erected a memorial site in Virginia with the names of 4,414 Allied soldiers who died in the 24-hour period known as D-Day, itswebsite states.
The Chippewa Falls students are holding a scrap metal drive at the high school from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Saturday.
“We do the scrap metal drive because it’s a throwback to World War II,” Kinville explained.
People can bring a variety of metals, but no electronics or anything with a compressor, like a dehumidifier or a refrigerator, he said.