SJ students tour World War II sites in Europe

Sebastian Mendez ’24

In the summer of 2022, students and faculty of Strake Jesuit traveled to Europe to study firsthand the history of  World War II. The travelers got a chance to experience what it was like to be on the land that was ravaged by war. Locals told us their family stories from the war, and we met refugees from the current war in Ukraine. The fourteen-day trip, starting July 4, took us to England, France, Belgium, Germany and Austria.

After an nine-hour flight, our journey started in London. Jetlagged for the first couple of days, the group left London for the beaches of Normandy, France, where the D-Day invasion happened. At our arrival, the conditions were the same as when the Allied soldiers were coming in on June 6,1944 with low tide at Omaha Beach. We even came by boat from the same port in Portsmouth that the Allied soldiers had dispatched from. We saw battle locations, including Pointe du Hoc, where German guns had been positioned high on a cliff above the beach. During this part of the tour, we saw concrete debris buried in the dirt, bunkers for soldiers to pop up and shoot out of, and bullet holes in the concrete. All of these were seen first hand by American soldiers. Mr. Kelly Clemons, the faculty leader of the group, said that the beach of Normandy was his favorite spot on the trip. Walking back to the bus, he mentioned that it was “guys like us” our age who were fighting in the war for their country and most lost their lives in the effort.

After the trip, students  agreed they had a positive experience, and teachers gained a bond with students that they otherwise might not know, Mr. Fuller said he would definitely do the trip again, and Mr. Clemons said this trip was so good that in July of 2023 he plans to go with another group of students. 

“The World War II trip was not only one of the most profound learning experiences of my life,” Hadi Suheil ’23 said, “but a great bonding experience for me to connect with upper and lower class men I hadn’t interacted with before. Each day was different and unique, scheduled and organized in a way that never failed to amaze us and motivate us to keep on learning. Peering out into the ocean of Normandy, reliving the moves and strategies of the US soldiers while singing along to military cadences, witnessing the enormous Berlin Wall, and traversing the depths and history of Churchill’s bunker, along with my fellow brothers, is something I’ll never forget.”