Education

It will take Strength to memorialize a ‘Silent Hero’ from Mississippi

An American soldier, no name given, walks in the Colleville American military cemetery, in Colleville sur Mer, western France, Sunday June 5, 2015, on the eve of the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day landing. D-Day marked the start of a Europe invasion, as many thousands of Allied troops began landing on the beaches of Normandy in northern France in 1944 at the start of a major offensive against the Nazi German forces, an offensive which cost the lives of many thousands.
An American soldier, no name given, walks in the Colleville American military cemetery, in Colleville sur Mer, western France, Sunday June 5, 2015, on the eve of the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day landing. D-Day marked the start of a Europe invasion, as many thousands of Allied troops began landing on the beaches of Normandy in northern France in 1944 at the start of a major offensive against the Nazi German forces, an offensive which cost the lives of many thousands. AP

A Pascagoula High School student and her teacher are one of 15 teams from throughout the nation who will spend months getting to know a Silent Hero from Mississippi who died during World War II and is buried at the Normandy American Cemetery in France.

At the end of the program, Allison Strength and her teacher, Elizabeth Green, will travel to Normandy, France. Strength will deliver a eulogy while standing at the grave of the Silent Hero from Mississippi.

Less than 10 percent of those who apply are accepted into the Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Albert H. Small Student & Teacher Institute.

Strength will choose the Silent Hero she wants to study either from the Pascagoula area or from Mississippi. According to Interment.net, 138 people from Mississippi are buried at the cemetery that contains the graves of 9,385 military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and the days to follow, and never returned home.

“Nothing relates the significance of the sacrifices made in Normandy better than a personal connection,” said National History Day Executive Director Cathy Gorn. “Students become well-acquainted with their Silent Heroes, often referring to them as a friend or family member. The eulogies they deliver are often tear filled, powerful and incredibly moving. I am confident Allison will walk away with a powerful understanding of the sacrifices so many Silent Heroes made in World War II.”

The students and teachers will spend months learning about the hero they select and then travel to Washington, D.C., and to France in June. Their expenses, including international travel, are picked up by Albert Small, a veteran who wants the next generation to understand the sacrifice of The Greatest Generation.

They’ll use war records, draft cards and interviews with descendants, historians and college professors. Once in France, they will tour Omaha and Utah beaches and the historic battle sites.

Strength also will create a digital memorial on the Silent Heroes website and share the story of their Silent Hero with local schools, community groups and veterans’ organizations.

Zachary Meiselbach, another student from Pascagoula High School who was mentored by Katherine Gilbert, completed the program and memorialized Kenneth Eckhoff from Moss Point, who died in June 1944.

To date, the program has told the stores of more than 100 Silent Heroes.

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