Following in the Footsteps of a World War II Veteran
Humble, TX, Teacher Retraces Namesake’s Steps – from Point of Engagement to Final Resting Place – to Make Soldiers’ Sacrifices Relevant for Students
(Houston) November 10, 2011 – On June 5, 1944, Silas DuFrene stood on the Cliffs of Dover facing his ultimate fate across the English Channel. Sixty-seven years later, his nephew and namesake stood in the same place, pondering his uncle’s sacrifice and preparing for a 15-day pilgrimage to help students at Eagle Springs Elementary tackle the question “Why do soldiers fight and serve?”
Armed with an $4,100 Fund for Teachers grant last June, Silas DuFrene retraced a World War II soldier’s journey–from his uncle’s engagement point in England to his final resting place in Epinal, France. DuFrene’s itinerary included London’s Imperial War Museum, soldiers’ barracks and the British Museum’s WWII archives. He followed his uncle’s journey to the beaches of Normandy, adding stops at the Hôtel Meruice, a Nazi command post during the occupation of Paris, and the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation commemorating the memory of more than 200,000 people sent to concentration camps. Silas also left for Krakow, Poland, to experience Auschwitz. His tour ended where his uncle’s did, at the American Cemetery in Epinal, France.
“At the end of my fellowship, I understood why our soldiers go to war and fight. To protect the life of another is truly a high calling.”
“I wanted students to understand why soldiers, like my uncle, fought and died in this war. But helping young children visualize the people and events of World War II as real and relevant, rather than facts in a book, is daunting,” explained DuFrene. “On my fellowship, I visited key places and collected information to help students grasp our soldiers’ dedication to protecting those who are unable to protect themselves.”
“I can recall the moment I walked onto the D-Day beaches in Normandy. It was almost as if I could hear the chaos of that military invasion nearly 70 years ago,” said DuFrene. “I felt such a sense of such gratitude for the sacrifice those men displayed that day. As I walked around the memorial cemetery, I the true enormity of that sacrifice overwhelmed me. And after visiting Auschwitz at the end of my fellowship, I understood why our soldiers go to war and fight. To protect the life of another is truly a high calling.”