“If I were told years ago that at the age of seventeen I would travel across the Atlantic Ocean and visit the wonderful country of France, I wouldn’t have believed it. Being afraid of heights has been a factor that has limited my choice of air travel, and traveling to my parent’s hometown in El Salvador has always been a foggy memory due to the fact that I was only four years old. The Normandy Sacrifice for Freedom; Albert H Small Student & Teacher Institute has meant more to me than the scholarship trip to France. The institute has helped me get over my fear of heights and to realize that soldiers were in far worse and dangerous conditions when jumping out of planes; if they can be brave enough to go through that, then I can cruise on a plane for five to six hours. In this institute; there are a multitude of students that come from different backgrounds and we each have different ways of looking at life. With that stated; this institute has helped me by becoming even more compassionate towards one another and putting that one foot forward to be nice and welcoming. Missing out on a great opportunity to make new friends is something I would regret all my life. The trip to France overall has helped to open my eyes, to think analytically and to put myself in the situation and environment in which great men and soldiers fought with pride for our country and allies.
Specifically today, June 24th I got an extreme perspective on how much these specific men sacrificed their lives. My teacher, Mr. Hipkins and I visited the Bayeux British War Cemetery which had beautiful landscape and memorials. It was cloudy outside during the evening so that atmosphere was perfect for what I was feeling; nostalgia and sadness. My heart was struck by all the tombstones I saw out in front of me. I took the time to walk by each tombstone and read the quote beneath each soldiers information written by family members. A general theme I noticed was the topic of memory; how love and memory will be forever in their hearts because they were touched so much by whoever passed away; and so was I. Along with being touched by those who passed away, I also had a little epiphany when realizing that the men of the 30th infantry fought in an area field with hedgerows and I didn’t want to get wet. I forced myself outside in the rain and to walk the path most soldiers walked on; I didn’t realize it until I was actually listening to Professor Long speak but the fact that I didn’t want to get wet was a ridiculous and selfish choice; in the end I was glad I got a bit wet because others before me had to endure and survived battle.
I am forever grateful for those that took their time to coordinate and organize the Normandy Scholars Institute. It is truly something I will treasure and remember when I am older; looking at all the friendships made and milestones passed. I will also take pride in bringing my specific soldier’s story to life, to make it known to others. I would like to thank Professor Long, Dr. Gorn, Dr. Claunch, Ms. O’Hara, Mr. Kern, Mr. Huegen, and Mr. Small for this amazing opportunity. I will hopefully be back on French territory in about a year or so attended a wonderful university.”
— Erick Chavez, student, Washington, D.C.