Photo: The group poses in front of an American M-4 Sherman tank in Bastonge, Belgium.
Photo submitted by Javier Martinez to SFrazier@elburnherald.com
KANELAND—A group of Kaneland High School (KHS) students in June experienced a historical adventure overseas.
The group of 17 students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, plus 10 adult chaperones, embarked on a service trip and spent seven days in Europe, visiting France, Belgium and Germany.
KHS Social Studies teacher Javier Martinez coordinated the trip.
“Hopefully (the students) learned a little bit about the history of the places we visited, learned about the history of some of the battles on the battlefields we visited, and took away a better appreciation for the sacrifices of the American soldiers during World War I and World War II,” Martinez said.
Students on the trip cleaned marbled white headstones in a World War I cemetery at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Chateau-Thierry, France.
According to Martinez, the students and chaperones cleaned between 1,300 and 1,400 headstones. They used buckets filled with soap and water, and scrubbed with brushes.
“I didn’t feel it was work,” said Tim Wachter, a KHS junior and Elburn resident. “I felt it was just something I needed to do and take care of. I felt that these people needed to be honored—that if there was anything on the headstones, we should clean it off for them to respect them.”
KHS graduate Mike Gorenz said a big part of the trip was made great because he was with his dad, Ed.
Mike also learned a lesson in Europe in regard to those who served in the military.
“Always be thankful for what those guys did for us,” Mike said. “Especially on Omaha Beach (on D-Day, June 6, 1944) and all of the battlefields that we went to. Just everything they had to sacrifice for what we do. All of the things we have today.”
Martinez noted that students saw WWI and WWII battlefields in France and a WWII battlefield in Belgium. The group toured a concentration camp in Germany, an experience Martinez referred to as “somber.”
Students also had a chance to travel up a lit Eiffel Tower in Paris and practice some French words. Wachter, along with other students, knew some useful words, including “bonjour” for hello and “merci” for thank you.
According to Wachter, Belgium had “very good french fries” that could be dipped in mayo or a sauce like a spicy mayo. In France, he noticed that ice cream shops had strawberry ice cream with fresh strawberries or chocolate ice cream with chocolate bits added.
“It was a great experience that I definitely won’t forget for the rest of my life,” Wachter said. “I felt that I was able to see all of the historical aspects (and) the cultural aspects in a way I wouldn’t be able to, had I just been reading about it or hearing about it at home.”