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‘It’s breathtaking’: N.B. students mark D-Day anniversary in France

Click to play video: 'Maritime students mark 75th anniversary of D-Day' Maritime students mark 75th anniversary of D-Day
WATCH: Many of the students reported having a personal connection to the Second World War. – Jun 6, 2019

It’s been a memorable week for students from northern New Brunswick who travelled overseas to take part in D-Day ceremonies and commemorations.

“I was walking from the beach where 75 years ago to this day, people in my family and other people of the North Shore Regiment walked those same steps,” says Jason O’Hearn, a grade 12 student at Sugarloaf Senior High School.

READ MORE: How modern Germany feels about D-Day and Hitler’s defeat

“You’re walking in the calmness of the fields, the poppies, the flowers are blowing, the pipes are going, the band is playing — that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the men and women who served and died for this country, and who walked through the bullets so we can walk through peace.”

File – Jason O’Hearn says he was able to visit his great-uncle’s gravesite and pay respects to him and all members of the North Shore Regiment. Callum Smith / Global News

About 150 students and staff from the Anglophone North School District left a week ago to retrace the footsteps of some of New Brunswick’s Allied troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in 1944.

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“When you come around a corner and you see not only a Canadian flag, but the New Brunswick flag, it really does something to you and kind of catches you,” says Meredith Caissie, the communications officer for the district.

“It makes you incredibly proud to be from northern New Brunswick, to be from New Brunswick, to be a Canadian.”

WATCH: More coverage of the 75th anniversary of D-Day on Global News

For O’Hearn, taking part in the entire experience, which has been in the works for two years, has an added meaning. His great-uncle served in D-Day and during the Second World War.

“I placed a poppy and a Canadian flag at his gravesite and I gave him a final sendoff on behalf of my family,” O’Hearn said.

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Before boarding the flight, Caissie told Global News students have learned a lot about D-Day throughout the past year in a variety of classes, beyond history and English classes.

“Teachers have found different ways to weave it into the curriculum,” she said. “It’s been incredible.”

File – Meredith Caissie, the communications officer for the Anglophone North School District, says the trip has been an incredible experience. Callum Smith / Global News

Students took part in official ceremonies at Holten Cemetery, in Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, Tailleville and Carpiquet.

They also paid a visit to the Anne Frank House, Kamp Vught concentration camp, Vimy Ridge and Arromanches.

READ MORE: Here’s what the ‘D’ in D-Day stands for

“It has been an incredible experience for me personally, and for all the students and staff who are involved in this trip as well,” Caissie says. “It has far exceeded any expectations that I have had coming into this, and I’m just overwhelmed.”

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“It’s been very impactful, and I will remember this trip for all my life because it’s been an amazing trip, meeting the locals, meeting the survivors of the second world war, visiting the sites, visiting the monuments,” says O’Hearn.

“It’s breathtaking. It is something that I will never forget.”

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