Chapel Hill students raise money to send veterans back to Normandy for D-Day 75th anniversary

Friday, November 9, 2018
Chapel Hill students raise money to send veterans back to Normandy
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Chapel Hill students raise money to send veterans back to Normandy

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- With Veterans Day this weekend, students are raising money to send two area Vets back to Normandy, France for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Six sophomores from Chapel Hill High School and East Chapel Hill High School, along with two teachers from Smith Middle School, call themselves "Envoys of Honor." Their goal is to raise $15,000 for "NC to Normandy 2019."

They chose Dr. George Chall, who was a combat medic.

"I'm so honored to be able to see his face when he walks back on the beaches and actually explains his thoughts and explains how he's feeling," said Elena Lowinger, a student at Chapel Hill High School.

They will also choose another veteran. Each veteran will take a family member.

The students are in French classes and will serve as interpreters for the vets. But what they will get in return is much more.

"A lot of the times when we learn about WWI and WWII, it's simply statistics from textbooks and we don't expand further than the textbook," said Catherine Charles, a student at Chapel Hill High School, who added that going to Normandy will allow her to really comprehend the war.

"Giving these students a chance at an oral history and to hear living history by meeting with WWII veterans and by also at the same time honoring them by serving them, by escorting them over to Normandy and showing them around and acting as translators, I believe is one of the most powerful things these students can do," said Tony Carter, Smith Middle School teacher.

The students went on an exchange program to France and Belgium last year.

"When I got there, to see that many people and the respect that was given to people who are from the same country and nation as me, it was just very touching," said Kaelyn Elien, a student at Chapel Hill High School. "The French -- they're in love with the fact that the Americans came to liberate their lands."

For Matthew Griesedieck, this is personal. His late grandfather served during WWII.

"I didn't really have the opportunity to thank him for all the great things that he's done," Griesedieck said, who attends Chapel Hill High School. "So I think this is an opportunity for me to give back to veterans and hear their stories and more and more about the war."

The teachers helped organize a similar trip for students in 2014.

"They come back changed people and they're changed in the fact that history is alive," said Robin McMahon, Smith Middle School French Teacher. "They saw two different cultures come together-the French and Americans."

Students are raising funds for the veterans and their guests. If there are leftover funds, they say, they'll be used to offset costs for students and teachers.

The students will have a fundraiser Sunday, November 11, at Smith Middle School, 9201 Seawell School Road, Chapel Hill, from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. WWII expert John Haynes will speak about the D-Day invasion. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for middle and high school students.

The students are also collecting money online.

Donations are tax deductible.

Donations can be sent via check to:

The Public School Foundation

750 Merritt Mill Road

Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Write a check to "The Public School Foundation" and write "NC to Normandy" on the memo line.

To donate online, go here and click donate.

Follow the donation instruction and type "NC to Normandy" in the comments section, then click submit.