Kansas City, MO— This Saturday is the 71st anniversary of D-Day. On June 6th, 1944, the U.S. and its allies launched a massive invasion of Normandy on the northern coast of France to start a decisive military campaign to bring World War Two to an end in Europe. It’s ancient history to some but not to this week’s Fox 4 young achiever who gets to go to the Normandy battlefields later this summer to help keep that history alive.
“I discovered Edmund L. Decker,” says Fox 4 Young Achiever Audrey Calovich. “He was a flight officer from Kansas City, Missouri.” In recent weeks, Audrey has gotten very close to Lieutenant Decker. The 24-year-old fighter pilot was killed in action two days after D-Day. He was shot down as he attacked a German convoy in France. An avid student of history and especially World War Two history, Audrey’s been doing a lot of research on Decker and contacting family for interviews and writing about him as a silent hero of World War Two.
“It’s amazing to be able to have him grow up near where I grew up and fit the pieces of his life back together,” says Audrey. Audrey’s been doing that as the centerpiece of an extensive project for an extraordinary adventure in history. She and Lisa Lauck, her history teacher at Sion School in Kansas City where Audrey just finished her junior year, have been chosen to go to France this summer in a very select program for just 15 high school student-teacher teams to immerse themselves in studying the Normandy invasion and campaign of World War Two.
“We will walk the beaches where everything happened, and we will actually eulogize our fallen heroes,” says Audrey.
“I teach about this stuff in the classroom,” says Lauck, “and to be part of it, it doesn’t just expand her knowledge but mine as well. And helps me become a more effective teacher.” To get first hand, personal perspective of the war years for her project, Audrey’s research took her and Lauck to John Knox Village. A retirement community in Lee’s Summit, Mo., to interview Dr. Robert Owens. Owens was a fighter pilot stationed in Panama to protect the canal. It’s all eye-opening and thrilling for a teenager who says she’s been captivated by history since middle school.
“It’s become apparent to me that (history) is in everything,” says Audrey. “History is our understanding of the present. History is in every subject. History is everywhere. I think I saw that early on. It’s a background for everything. So if you understand history, you have a better understanding of everything else.” Audrey’s selection for the World War Two Normandy Campaign project and the exciting trip to France that comes along with it came about because of her success in National History Day competition.
“This is what’s left of my National History Day project from last year, Army Nurses in World War Two,” says Audrey as she and a reporter stand in front of her exhibit of artifacts, a video and other materials. “Audrey won first place in Missouri with that project and got to compete nationally. That’s where she discovered the Normandy study opportunity. National History Day partners with the sponsor of that program.
“I think Audrey sees history alive, no matter how long ago it was when she looks at a history book,” says Lauck. “And she just loves to bring it to life for herself.”
“I’ll probably be speechless,” says Audrey about her upcoming opportunity to go to France and see the World War Two history there. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do as a tourist for a long time. To think I’ll be able to do that as a scholar is, amazing. And once I get there and see where everything happened at this vital moment in history, it will be life-changing.”
Audrey and her teacher are in the final stages of their work before heading to France later this month. They travel to Washington, DC first and then to the Normandy region. Their visit culminates in a day of remembrance on the eve of America’s Independence Day when Audrey and the other students deliver eulogies to the individual silent heroes of the war they are studying.
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