posted Mar 23, 2015 at 2:00 PM
A group of Dr. Charles Best secondary students learned a history lesson about Canada's participation in World War II and did some service work of their own during a spring break tour of France.
The 17 students and three sponsor teachers spent a few hours cleaning up litter on Juno beach as part of their commemoration and study of D-Day, which took place nearly 71 years ago.
"The act of cleaning the beaches functioned two-fold for the students. Most evidently, it was a way to honour the sacrifices made by the young men who risked, and in many cases gave, their lives in the pursuit of the freedoms that are enjoyed today in both Canada and France, but it also enabled students to see, firsthand, how a significant piece of Canadian history can fall into disrepair if we don't take our responsibilities as citizens seriously," stated teacher Greg Sutherland in an email.
The effort was also appreciated by Marie-Eve Vaillancourt, of the Juno Beach Centre, who commented on the students' interest in maintaining Canadian history.
In addition to cleaning up Juno beach, the students braved the windy elements to visit Omaha beach to learn more about the efforts of Canadian and other Allied forces in the June 6, 1944 D-Day invasion. The event was part of spring break tour, in which the students visited other war memorial and tourist sites, including Notre Dame cathedral where they briefly met up with another group of Coquitlam students from Centennial.
According to the Canadian War Museum, 14,000 Canadians were among the nearly 150,000 Allied troops who landed or parachuted into the invasion area.
They assaulted a beachfront code-named “Juno”, where soldiers encountered German machine guns, mines, and booby-traps, but persevered and the invasion was considered a success.