By VIGNESH IYER
University High School’s very own Sonia Kelly (Jr.) and Ms. Judy Richonne (Social Science Dept.) are one of 15 student-teacher pairs from the nation selected to be part of the Normandy: Sacrifice For Freedom Albert H. Small Student & Teacher Institute program coordinated by the National History Day organization. This program sends them on the journey to explore WWII history through the life of someone who experienced the war first hand and is now memorialized in the Normandy American Cemetery.
“I first heard about this program through the National History Day Club at our school,” Kelly said. “After deciding I wanted to apply for the program I asked Mrs. Richonne if she would apply with me, and she was just as excited as I was at the prospect of studying World War II history in Washington DC and France. We were accepted into the program after multiple essays from both Mrs. Richonne and I.”
“It is quite exciting that the teams get to interact with each other about their findings and research, and at the same time learn about the war,” Richonne said about her thoughts on the program.
Kelly and Richonne are currently under the process of selecting a soldier from nearby, preferably Orange County, who is buried among the 900 soldiers in the Normandy American Cemetery in France. They will conduct extensive research on the soldier’s life before the war, his military career and his participation in the Normandy Campaign. In the process, they will also write a eulogy for the fallen soldier, which they will recite by his grave.
Both of them will travel to Washington D.C. after a year of extensive research on their soldier to finish the rest of their research with college professors and other historians. In D.C., they will also attend a dinner hosted by the White House Historical Association, tour the World War II museum and will prepare to travel to Normandy, France. In Normandy, they will continue their field research by visiting D-Day beaches and historic sites from war time, as well as visiting museums housing artifacts from that period.
Their final task will be to create a website about their Silent Hero and to use that to educate their community about the sacrifices made and the challenges faced during the war.
Richonne also mentioned that a majority of these soldiers are unknown to anyone but their families.
“They should be revered. They are our Silent Heroes. They are Silent because they gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Richonne said. “Our goal is to research their past, find out who they are, and give them their voice back so that they’re not silent anymore.”