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Lethbridge students travel to northern France to walk in footsteps of history

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge students travel to northern France to walk in footsteps of history' Lethbridge students travel to northern France to walk in footsteps of history
Two Lethbridge students are getting the opportunity to travel through the battlefields of northern France this month to learn about Canada’s role in the first and second world wars. – Jul 2, 2019

Two Lethbridge students are preparing for a history lesson like no other this month.

The pair, along with 22 other students from across the country, will take to the skies Wednesday en route to the world war battlefields in northern France that helped shape today’s world.

“The truth is for most people, you’re 6,000 km away from where it actually happened so you’re reading about it in a textbook,” said Scott Entwistle, special projects co-ordinator for the Juno Beach Centre Association. “You can get interested in it and you can get excited about it but it’s hard to actually connect with the site and connect with the history until you actually stand there.”

READ MORE: Lethbridge students experience ‘haunting’ history on trip to Europe

This is the first time a student trip has been offered by the Juno Beach Centre Association. While for many years the organization has held similar history-focused excursions for teachers, Entwistle said in honour of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, they decided to further their reach, much to the delight of Felix Rondeau, one Lethbridge native who won a spot on the trip.

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“It’s really going to make me think about how I see Canada today and how it’s shaped the Canada we know today and how we’ll be able to pass on the history,” said Rondeau.

The second Lethbridge teen to win a place on the 11-day trip, Aidan Sander, is also excited to get an opportunity to learn first-hand about Canada’s pivotal role in history.

“The reason I was really attracted towards this trip was to broaden my perspective on Canada,” Sander said. “And to learn more about Canadian history regarding the First and the Second World War.”

WATCH BELOW: How Canadians shaped the greatest invasion in military history

Click to play video: 'D-Day explained: How Canadians shaped the greatest invasion in military history' D-Day explained: How Canadians shaped the greatest invasion in military history
D-Day explained: How Canadians shaped the greatest invasion in military history – Jun 2, 2019

All 24 students going on the trip are between the ages of 15 and 18, which Entwistle said resonates with the ages of those fighting on the battlefields in France.

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“There are two 16-year-olds buried in Normandy, so these are mostly young people that were not much older than these kids who cut their lives short and volunteered to cross the ocean, then cross the channel and fight in France,” Entwistle said.

READ MORE: ‘We danced in the streets with the soldiers’ -- French civilians recall joys, horrors of D-Day

Students from eight different provinces across the country won a spot on the tour by submitting an essay or video that highlighted their personal connections to Canadians in battle, and for the two Lethbridge natives, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn more about their roots.

“I’m a student pilot and I’ve always been fascinated by the history of it,” Rondeau said. “I thought I could learn the history of Canada and aviation by going to this program.”

Sander said his most anticipated stop of the trip was the Vimy Ridge memorial.

“It kind of represented a defining moment in Canadian history to show the world that Canada was its own military force.”

The 11-day trip will tour several battlegrounds touched by Canadian forces, including Vimy Ridge, Dieppe and Beaumont-Hamel and will wrap up on Paris on July 13.

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