Jefferson High student reflects on spring trek to World War II sites in Europe

Spring break began a little early for the 26 Jefferson High School students and five adults as the World War II trip began March 30 with an eight-hour flight across six time zones.

 

The 2017 World War II Trip, arranged annually by history teacher Bob Pittard, was officially underway. We didn’t know it yet, but this trip would bring us closer than we could ever imagine with lifelong memories.

The first stop was Paris. As we rode through the elegant streets most people only dream about, we hopped from seat to seat in attempts to get good pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. The next stop was the beaches of Normandy, rich with the history of the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944.

The first day was full of jet lag and smiles, but it was only the beginning of an unbelievable trip. History was at our fingertips throughout the entire trip as we saw countless artifacts from the war, from bunkers to machine guns. A humbling experience was the visit to the American cemetery at Omaha Beach, surrounded by pearl white graves with the smell of the ocean drifting toward us with the breeze.

Pointe du Hoc is always a favorite of the trip, where students run through craters left by bombs. After a museum stop at Compiegne, France, we headed to Bastogne, Belgium, known for the Battle of the Bulge.

In Bastogne we went on a walking tour around the town. We visited many sites referenced in “Band of Brothers” including foxholes and the town of Foy. Next up was Luxembourg, where we had time to explore. Later we visited the American cemetery in Luxembourg, home to the resting place of Gen. George S. Patton.

After a night’s stay in Mettlach, Germany, we ran into some technical difficulties with the bus and had unexpected time to explore the town. With a Birkenstocks store, an ice cream place and a cafe, it wasn’t hard to kill extra time.

Next was Nuremburg, a trip favorite for its striking culture. Home of the Nuremberg trials and the Zeppelin Field, the city offered two days packed with history lessons. The old part of the city contained beautiful architecture and an Easter Market with booths for shopping.

The Buchenwald concentration camp was a solemn, heartbreaking experience. White roses were placed around the camp in memory of those who lost their lives. Standing there in the biting cold put things in a new perspective for us. All I could think about was how each person there had a story, and many will never be told. After the somber air of the camp, we made a quick stop in Weimar, a quirky town holding a history from between the World Wars.

Next we visited Berlin, the nation’s capital, and went on a walking tour led by Mr. Pittard and stopped by the Olympic Stadium. We later went to Braunau, Austria, Hitler’s birthplace. We then went to Berchtesgaden, with breathtaking views of the Alps from our hotel room balconies.

Munich was the final stop on our European adventure. After a walking tour, we had time to look for souvenirs. Our dinners those last two nights were at the Hard Rock Cafe and Augustiner Keller. The last day was bittersweet, as many of us were ready to return home, but we knew a part of us would stay in Europe.

The 10-hour flight home was exhausting, and the jet lag kicked in quickly, but we were soon back in Jefferson.

Personally, this trip infected me with the travel bug, and I’m itching to go somewhere else. The trip will forever be a prominent part of my life. It’s a wonderful opportunity to explore the world with your peers, and it truly creates lasting bonds. I cannot thank Mr. Pittard enough for all the smiles, laughs, and knowledge this trip gave me.

Other students who made the trip were Breanna Arbanas, Alexa Berry, Ian Byers, Megan Carlson, Valery Cepeda, Mitchell Chambers, Addison Cochran, Harris Collier, Shara Finch, Christopher Gilreath, Hannah Healan, Max Higgins, Isabelle Husted, Charlie Jarrett, Rachael Middleton, Caroline Mitchell, Kamiru Ndirangu, Sommie Nixon, Isabella Perez, Sara Rogers, Kaylee Sikes, Ethan Smith, Caleb Tyler and Abby Wood.

Chaperones were Jerry Rice, Jamie Chambers, Cathy Carter, Elizabeth Mitchell and Bob Pittard.

 

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