This an essay by a 17-year-old student who came to better understand the importance of D-Day (June 6, 1944) during a visit to Normandy, a place where thousands of soldiers around his age “gave their lives in droves” in the service of their country.
One of the greatest influences on my life has been Student Leadership University, otherwise known as SLU. SLU is an incredible organization. They use biblical principles as well as historical sites to teach students like me the importance of service and servant leadership. Throughout my three summers with SLU, I have learned the importance of these two qualities, as well as how they can be used to prepare us for our future.
This past summer, I had the amazing opportunity to travel with SLU for a third summer and attend Student Leadership University 301 in Europe with several of my friends. For six days, we explored the historic cities of London, Oxford, Paris and Normandy while getting to hear from prominent speakers such as John Lennox, a well-know author, and Jay Stract, the president and founder of SLU.
One of the most vivid and moving experiences was the day we spent in Normandy. Our first stop was the World War II D-Day memorial, where I stood and peered out over the thousands of crosses marking the graves of soldiers my age.
Shortly thereafter, we looked down from a German bunker onto the cliffs of Point Du Hoc, where teenagers had scaled 100-foot cliffs while being mowed down by German machine guns. Later that afternoon, we walked along Omaha Beach, one of the many spots where the English Channel turned bright red with the blood of thousands of soldiers.
Standing where kids my age gave their lives in droves was bone-chilling. Never before had I understood the importance of June 6, 1944, in world history. That day, American and other allied soldiers turned the tides of war by taking the Germans by surprise, and would go on to stifle one of the scariest political regimes to ever exist. Without D-Day, there is no telling what state Europe and the rest of the world would be in today if those young people had not answered the call to serve their country.
Standing among those graves, over those cliffs, and on those beaches made me realize the courage and bravery of those my age. Their simple act of saying “yes” to serving their country was bold, and the heroism they displayed on those beaches remains unmatched to this day. I could not help but imagine what it would feel like to be one of the last soldiers to step out of the boat, wade through the red sea of blood and bodies, and crawl through the sand as bullets whizzed past my body. Standing in Normandy, I realized how simply saying “yes” to serving others can change the world.
Later that week during one of the sessions, Brent Crowe, the vice president of SLU, quoted Winston Churchill, referencing Parliament’s selecting him to be the prime minister of Great Britain during World War II:
“I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.”
Hearing Churchill’s quote reminded me of Normandy and the bravery of the soldiers who fought there. I thought to myself, “What is the moment that I am being prepared for?”
I am not certain of what that moment is, but I do know that I am being prepared for it by my experiences today. Developing a deeper understanding of service and servant leadership in Normandy was one of those adventures. Struggling through my final months of being in high school has been another.
Though I do not know what my moment will be, I hope that when it comes, I will be ready to step out of the boat.