A gaggle of 19 native, high-school college students have been busy sharing a little bit bit greater than the same old “What did you do that summer time?” tales to begin the brand new college 12 months.

Representing 5 excessive faculties from New Fort to Basalt, the scholars took half in a 12-day journey in July that included a go to to the Nationwide World Struggle II Museum in New Orleans earlier than touring to see first-hand the seashores of Normandy, France, the place the D-Day invasion came about on June 6, 1944.

Since 2016, Roaring Fork Valley philanthropist Paul Bushong has been working with the Aspen Neighborhood Basis to offer space college students the chance to take part within the museum-sponsored Normandy Academy.

Through the journey, college students immerse themselves within the folks, weaponry, technique and aftermath of the biggest amphibious invasion in historical past, when the Allied forces stormed the seashores of Normandy after the German troops invaded France.

“Normandy will be the most vital historic occasion within the final 100 years,” mentioned Bushong, who was glad to see the return of this system this summer time following a two-year hiatus in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic and associated journey restrictions.

“If it weren’t for Normandy, we’d have misplaced the conflict, and we’d all be talking German,” he mentioned.

The journey is open to high-school sophomores and juniors. Members are chosen by an software course of, and their households are requested to cowl 1 / 4 of the associated fee for the journey whereas Bushong covers the remainder.

Upon their return, college students are tasked to share their expertise with friends as a method to convey consciousness in regards to the significance of the occasions.

A number of the six college students representing Glenwood Springs Excessive College on the journey had been requested to share their ideas with the Submit Unbiased.

“It’s an occasion that formed the world we all know at this time,” Andrew Bartnik mentioned. “Quite a bit may be realized from that darkish interval in time, and, hopefully, it’s remembered and taught for years to come back.”

The primary-hand perspective gained by the journey is much extra impacting than studying it in a historical past e book or seeing a movie, he mentioned.

“Now, each time I hear in regards to the D-Day landings or battle of Normandy, I image the seashores I walked on, and the bunkers I entered,” Bartnik mentioned. “What stunned me most was how the presence of the conflict stays so a few years later. Ruined bunkers and cannons are highly effective sights, after all, however even the missed particulars held plenty of which means.”

He describes seeing the bomb crater scars left behind within the fields and divots the place trenches as soon as ran.

“You’ll be able to’t assist however take into consideration how the calm modern-day pasture was as soon as a terrifying battlefield,” he mentioned. “My aim is to unfold phrase to the GSHS sophomore and junior lessons, encouraging them to use for this unforgettable expertise within the coming 12 months.”

GSHS participant Jared Deras mentioned it was an excellent alternative to develop on what he already knew about WWII.

“It was superb to go to museums and have a look at artifacts, similar to weapons, uniforms, autos and little issues, like silverware,” he mentioned. “We had the very uncommon alternative to take heed to a survivor of the German occupation of France and listen to her story and experiences of residing in such a time.”

Added GSHS scholar Angel Hernandez: “Over the course of the two-week journey, I not solely witnessed the mass scale that the Normandy invasion was fought on, however I acquired to witness the preservation of historic artifacts and places from the conflict.

“As well as, I acquired to spend two weeks with a number of the most energetic folks from the Roaring Fork Valley.”

Zoe Laird mentioned she realized so much about herself as a traveler and scholar whereas navigating a overseas nation with out her household.

“Studying in regards to the completely different French customs was actually shocking; who knew it was impolite to smile at folks on the road?,” she mentioned. “I believe everybody on that journey was stunned by how little we actually knew.”

As for the conflict historical past she was uncovered to: “Even after an intensive week in France going to a number of museums, I really feel like I’ve a lot to be taught. This journey additional sparked my curiosity within the less-talked-about elements of this conflict and others.”

Bushong shared an electronic mail message despatched to him after the journey by Basalt Excessive College scholar participant Connor Hoffman.

In it, he writes: “What actually struck me was that regardless that the conflict induced most people in France to lose their previous lifestyle, and, regardless that it took a very long time to rebuild, they had been in a position to transfer on and construct new lives. That’s actually the entire motive why the conflict was fought; so that individuals may maintain residing their lives the way in which they needed to dwell it.

“That’s one thing no textbook or instructor has ever expressed to me, and one thing I do know will stick with me for the remainder of my life,” he wrote.

Bushong mentioned he hopes to develop this system subsequent 12 months to as many as 30 college students.