What this trip means to our students
These are transcriptions of some amazing speeches presented by students from the HHS band.
When a sighing begins / In the violins / Of the autumn-song
My heart is drowned / In the slow sound / Languorous and long. - Paul Verlaine
75 years ago, these somber, lonely words were broadcast to the world. They reached the patient ears of a small group of French resistance fighters. This was the signal for the Allies to begin the invasion of Normandy. D-Day. When the sun set the next day, thousands of brave brothers, loving sons, and dear friends lay asleep forever on the beaches of Normandy. Many of them were not much older than I am now. Did they laugh with their friends over games of cards like I do? Did they have a sister that they loved as much as I love mine?
Today, we stand here in solidarity and remember those whose music has ended. Their selfless song bought us a deep, lasting peace. We also know that one song must end for another to begin. The men who fought with such courage at Normandy laid down the bows of their violins only for us to pick them back up. Our song is a song of hope for our future. A song of peace for our world. And a song of remembrance.
- Laura Evans, sophomore
Sometimes I wish that my brain had an external hard drive where I could keep every single fact about WWII, but for now let me tell you about “Operation Overlord”. The invasion was originally scheduled for June 5 but a massive storm postponed the Allied forces and with more storms forecasted for the next couple weeks General Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the go ahead during a small break in the storm. 6:30 AM June 6th 1944, 156,000 troops from The United States, Canada and Great Britain landed on the beaches of Normandy. 4900 of which would be determined as mia or dead. This attack was all or nothing The soldiers who fought, like Calvin Graham who was 13 when he enlisted which is 3 years younger than I am now, will never be forgotten. I am honored to stand before you 75 years later remembering their bravery, loyalty, and sacrifice.
- Curtis Bushée, sophomore
Young men not much older than me and my fellow students died on this beach 75 years ago. They forfeited their futures and joys to come, so that we could stand here as free people and enjoy the freedoms they felt were worth fighting for. Too many had to forfeit their dreams. Too many perished on both sides. And too many parents and loved ones in each of the warring nations lost their sons, husbands and loved ones.
Too many tears were shed.
We are here today to honor these men. We are here today to remember these men. We are here TODAY as free men because of these men. We are indebted to them. And thanks to them, we get to enjoy the benefits of freedom and Democracy. We should not forget them and we cannot forget them, whether are still living or dead.
We will never forget them.
My generation is connected to the young men who fought and died here through our youth and similar aspirations. We are connected to these men through the experiences of our parents and grandparents. We are connected to these men through the freedoms we enjoy.
We are all connected,
Let me tell you my connection.
My grandmother’s sister lost her newlywed husband in pearl harbor. My great grandmother worked in a factory making ammunition. My Norwegian great-grandfather was in the Norwegian resistance. My American grandfather worked in construction at the age of 15, because older men were not available. He also delivered Christmas mail for the Post Office at his young age. He describes how young women met him on his route miles from their home. hoping they had received mail from their husbands and loved ones. He describes it as a heart breaking experience witnessing their hope, joy or despair. My father remembers war stories by Uncle Charlie and Uncle Al about their experiences in the Pacific and North African invasions, respectively. My grandfather still rings a ship bell that Uncle Charlie had gotten from a Destroyer. He never explained how.
We are all connected.
- Erik Ozkaptan, junior
The beach where we have all gathered today is no longer just a beach; Normandy has become synonymous with the events which transpired here seventy-five years ago; soldiers, many of whom were not yet grown men, and some younger than myself, sat in boats praying that their lives might be spared - boys clung to pictures of their mothers, hoping they might see them again, and countless others searched for their brothers after the shots had subsided. Seventy-five years later, it is easy to feel disconnected from what happened here - we learn about Normandy in textbooks and from movies, and rarely hear from those who lived through it -when I was young I partook in welcome receptions for WWII veterans, not understanding as I do now, and hope others will, the sacrifice many made when they were hardly adults. And for some, the events of Normandy continue to resonate today as the cannon-fire did seventy-five years ago. When I told my family about this life changing opportunity, my grandparents were excited to tell me stories, to include those of my Great Uncle Andrew Giangreco, who enlisted at the minimum age, was wounded, and honorably discharged with a Purple Heart - all when he was as young as I am now. I connected with strangers, and am honored to represent their stories; some of boys buried here, young enough to be my classmates, who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that I might speak here today, only seventy-five years later.
- Thomas Longuillo, senior
The moment I heard my band director make the announcement that the Pride of Herndon would be traveling to Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D- day, all I could think about was that I couldn't wait to tell my grandpa and my great grandpa.
For a little bit of background, I am the daughter of a Navy captain, and the Navy has been a part of every generation in my family for quite a long time, so I felt very honored when I found out that I was going to be able to pay tribute to the soldiers and sailors who laid down their lives for our freedom.
A few weeks after the announcement, one of the band parents put out an email that she would do research and find what she could about family members that may have been in Normandy on D-Day. As soon as I saw this email, I sent my great grandpa’s name and hoped that she would find something out about him. As time went by, life went on and testing started (as it does at the end of a school year).
And then I found out that my great grandfather had passed away.
His passing wasn't sudden or unexpected, but he was family and had always been a figure in my grandparents’ home. Through the sadness, life continued and plans for the memorial service were made. Everything was normal up until we got the email from the band parent who was doing research on family members in the military. She had found records of my great grandpa, from the ship he was on on D-day; from his watch bill to his enlistment records, she found things even his son (my grandpa) didn't know existed.
The timing of this news in relation to my great grandpa’s death was just meant to be; I don’t know how else to explain it but that. I showed my mom the email as soon as I got it and we were both crying over the documents that were discovered by this amazing band mom. We immediately emailed the documents to my grandpa and called him so the we could remember his father with him.
My great grandfather was a sailor at Omaha Beach on D-Day, and that fact made this commemoration so much more meaningful, because I got to live for 15 years with my great grandfather. He survived, but countless sailors, soldiers, pilots, and civilians did not, and they are why we are here; to remember the tragedy that was World War Two, and make sure such a tragedy never happens again.
- Samantha Back, junior
Frank C. Rose
b. Aug 25, 1923 Mt. Morris, NY
d. Apr 22, 2015 Lexington, KY
Captain, US Army Air Corps
On this day, 75 years ago in the middle of the Second World War, the beaches of Normandy were infiltrated by the Allied Powers. Among the many of these brave and heroic men who fought for our country was my Great Uncle, Frank Rose. He was a B24J Aircraft Commander who performed 25 battle missions, his third mission being the D-Day Invasion. Being able to put myself in his shoes 75 years later is an experience that I know I will never forget. Not only am I remembering my Great Uncle, but also all of the soldiers who devoted their lives to fighting for the United States of America. I am very honored and proud to be representing the Herndon Community and the members of the USS Herndon.
- Jake Cuppernull, sophomore
I once knew a man, a good man by the name of Leland Page, my grandfather. Who took to heart the very meaning of the word duty, and in so doing, served with a burning love of country and kin. Yet this is not a story of battle, but rather a story that is seldom told. The story of a supporting role in the war just as important as any engagement in the conflict, the story of a young man, serving on the homefront of the Second World war.
He was brought up on a farm in Prairie View Kansas during the time of the Great Depression, yet his whole world changed on the day that he came home to see his family huddled around the radio, listening to the details of an attack on Hawaii by the Japanese, America was at war. Over the next four years of his life, he served his nation with vigor in any way a teen could at the time; having his parents turn what little savings they had into liberty bonds to fund the war effort. storing scrap metal with his buddies and turned it in as often as they could for a handful of pennies, and, because of them living on a farm and all, growing more than their fair share liberty gardens to feed the troops. In the end he learned how lucky he was to be born on the day that he was, because his 18th birthday would have been in September of 1945 for a war that ended in August, missing the opportunity to enlist by no more than a month.
This chance then, this trip of remembrance for those who stormed the beaches of Normandy on that fateful day, afforded to so few people in our day and age, in my case, will be for him. The man who would go on to achieve great things in his life; serving in Korea, raising a family in Santa Monica then moving them to all the way to DC, working many years for the government and traveling abroad many times, and personally meeting and becoming well acquainted with the 41st president of the United States. All this in one man’s life, yet he was hardly a month short of partaking in the events that changed the world forever.
- David Mercado, sophomore
My great grandfather Adolf Steil, arrived in Belgium whilst attempting to escape religious persecution in his home country of Poland. When he first arrived in Antwerp, it was on his own, a story as old as civilization, risking everything to find a better life for him and his family, whether it be fortune, or just a safe place to practice his religion. Within a decade he found himself caught up once more in that very same religious persecution he had tried to escape in Poland. Only this time, there was nowhere to go, By May of 1940 his home country of Poland had already been overrun by the Nazi war machine, with the majority of Europe soon to follow. We do not know whether or not he was forced to wear a star but he; his wife, and his eldest son, my great uncle were taken in the middle of a Shabbos night in late 1942, my grandfather was hidden under the stairs with a housekeeper. While his wife and son were sent to Auschwitz he was sent to Normandy as a conscripted laborer set to work on the Atlantic Seawall, that very wall that stood in the way of those brave Allied freedom fighters, here on this very beach 75 years ago today.
What does this trip, this ceremony mean to me? It means hope, for freedom, and for safety, the type of hope felt from Paris to Warsaw, from Rome to Oslo, when news of the Allies landing spread. The same hope my great grandfather felt when he first arrived in Antwerp. The same hope his youngest son felt when United States soldiers of Patton's great third army liberated Perwez Belgium, the small town in which he spent much of the war in hiding. The same hope he felt when he arrived at Pier 42 in New York in 1950. The same hope I get to feel every day when I wake up in a country where I am free, where I can feel safe. Hope given to me, to all of us, when those courageous soldiers landed on the beaches in the early hours of June 6th, 1944; Gold, Sword, Juno, Utah, Omaha.
- Matthew Steil, senior
I am a 17 year old high school senior. I am about to take on the biggest challenge of my life to-date. I currently spend my days contemplating which university’s colors to wear, wondering who my roommate will be, and thinking about the friends and family I’ll be leaving behind when I go college in the fall.
Almost exactly 75 years ago a group of men, many of whom were my age, made a life decision that would take them on a different trajectory and bring them to the beaches of France. These men were provided uniforms of Navy blue, paired with 300 other men who would become their friends and brothers, and were given only a 10% chance of ever returning home.
In the 2 years since my high school’s selection to participate in the ceremonies celebrating D-Day, my fellow bandmates, parents, teachers, and community leaders have engaged in a historical journey through the lives of the sailors who participated on that momentous occasion. In the course of learning and reflecting on the USS Herndon and the events of June 6, 1944, I realized how fortunate I am to have the freedom and opportunity to go off to college. Little did these men know they would be leading the Allied powers to victory in one of most significant, yet tragic military battles in history. In the Invasion of Normandy, from D-Day through August 21st, we lost nearly 73,000 Allied troops, and more than 150,000 were wounded. Nor were they probably aware of the magnitude and importance their roles would play in the history of free world.
The USS Herndon bears the same name of the town that I proudly call home. Herndon is a town in the state of Virginia, hidden in the shadows of one of the biggest, political powerhouses in the world, Washington, D.C. I am extremely fortunate and humbled to represent the Pride of Herndon High School Marching Band, the Town of Herndon, and the United States of America on the 75th anniversary of one the greatest military triumphs, but most importantly recognize and honor the heroic crew of the USS Herndon.
- Stephen Bobersky, senior
The waves lick the shore and sand is swept into a new pattern. A footprint long gone
from the man who left it there, but it is still there in us. Thousands of them. Footprints from boots of soldiers now gone. heroes in a time of need, they left behind stories.
They left behind legacies. And they left with us endless potential in a free world. With
both of my grandfathers, my father, and many other from my family veterans from
the United States military, I am not a stranger to this sacrifice. I have been taught
honor, humility, and integrity. Everyone shapes their life with every decision they
make. And every sacrifice proof of your character. Every soldier has sacrificed more
than can be compensated for. And they will live in our hearts forever because of it.
- Guthrie Demers, senior