London will be the first stop en route to prestigious ceremony for Chemainus Secondary School students Kyle Brown, left, and Dyson Blitterswyk. They’ll be at the 75th anniversary celebrations for D-Day on June 6. They’re sure to have some interesting stories to tell upon their return. Both are just so grateful for the opportunity. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Anticipation building for trip to D-Day anniversary for Chemainus students

Experience of being there promises to be a memorable one

Dyson Blitterswyk and Kyle Brown are excited, thrilled and even a bit overwhelmed for the chance to be at Juno Beach for 75th anniversary D-Day celebrations June 6.

The two Chemainus Secondary School Grade 11 students and good friends since kindergarten have done their homework, so to speak, and know something about what to expect from their studies. But, until they get there, the enormity of the place in world history is hard to fathom.

“You can look at pictures and read about all you want, it’s going to be so different to see it first-hand and experience what they went through,” conceded Brown.

“We have to think boys our age were doing exactly the same thing. They weren’t going to sight-see. They were going to fight a war.”

Both students managed to take a Socials class a year ahead with Ruest before she retired.

“I’m very glad to have Mrs. Ruest as a teacher for what she’s done for the school and us,” noted Blitterswyk.

“I know I’m extremely honoured to get to do this. I don’t think I’ll ever have a better opportunity.”

“Kyle and I both found Social Studies to be interesting,” he added. “I know Kyle’s really interested in war history. I am, too. I don’t think I’m as knowledgeable as Kyle would be. I know a lot of stuff about where we’re going. The geography of it I know pretty well.”

“It’s probably the biggest point of my life, to be honest,” said Brown. “The opportunity Mrs. Ruest has provided to both of us, it’s crazy.”

Both also have some personal connections to wartime that they’re anxious to explore further.

Brown’s great, great uncle piloted a Lancaster bomber and was shot down on the way to a bombing in Nuremberg.

A great, great grandfather of Blitterswyk’s fought in the First World War and was killed in the Battle of Hill 70. His name is on the Vimy Memorial.

Another grandfather on the Chadwick side of Blitterswyk’s family actually fought in both the First and Second World Wars, quite a rarity considering the gap between the two.

It all promises to add a completely different dimension to the trip.

“I think I’m well-prepared knowledge-wise,” said Brown. “Emotionally, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Blitterswyk has never left North America before so this is going to be an epic 10 days for him.

Brown has been to Iceland, but no other countries in Europe.

The sites of the battles, the cities and the entire tour are thoughts racing wildly in their minds in advance of the trip.

“I’m just really excited,” summed up Brown. “I’ve seen them in movies and books and Socials class, learning about them – obviously not the same scenario, but the same area.”

“I don’t know what to expect, either,” said Blitterswyk. “I don’t know the scale of anything.”

One thing they both know is several other students worked hard for the chance to go on the trip and they wanted to acknowledge them.

“All these people we know are hard-workers,” noted Brown. “To be chosen out of that group, it’s powerful.”

A powerful image on D-Day and the days immediately following emerges in an email from Allan Bacon of Toronto.

“On June 6, 1944, I arrived by boat on Juno Beach in Normandy, France, with the Canadian Scottish Regiment,” he writes. “My role was in the mortar platoon. On June 17, I was based in a barn, anticipating an attack that never came. I went into a nearby shed to disarm the grenades when one exploded, resulting in the loss of my right arm.

“When I returned to Canada, I became a member of The War Amps, which was started by amputee veterans returning from the First World War to help each other adapt to their new reality as amputees. Through the years, we have made it a goal to remember and commemorate our fallen comrades, and to educate youth about the horrors of war.

“In Normandy, many Canadians died or suffered wounds that they had to carry for the rest of their lives. As we mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, it’s important that we never forget.“

Just Posted

Striking Western Forest Products workers could lose benefits in September

Union, forest company at odds over Vancouver Island benefit payments as strike enters third month

Flashback: Library concerns, a new park and new seniors plans

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Lexi Bainas has been combing through old… Continue reading

Take your family to the Cobble Hill Fair this Saturday

Animals, rides, those wonderful displays in the hall, food and fun in store in Cobble Hill

Motor circuit expansion proposal to go to public hearing

North Cowichan gives applications third readings at packed meeting

Firefighters can’t burn down houses anymore, so they need a training facility

In the old days, everyone gathered to watch a ‘practice fire’, safety regulations won’t allow that now

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Conan turns to the Property Brothers for tips on buying Greenland

Jonathan Scott suggests removing glaciers and mountains to bring in ‘more natural light’

Forests minister visits B.C. town hit by multiple mill shutdowns

A third of Mackenzie turns out for rally, not much to cheer about

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

B.C. music teacher accused of sexual misconduct involving girls

Police believe other victims could be out there after the arrest of Lamar Victor Alviar

B.C. family stranded in Croatia desperate to come home

Funds being raised to bring back mom and two children

$5-million lotto ticket sold in Nanaimo

Someone matched all six numbers in Wednesday’s 6/49 draw

Most Read