WASHINGTON, D.C. – Fifteen student and teacher teams from across the country are being given an extraordinary opportunity to tell the story of a fallen WWII hero from their respective home towns and pay their respects to this Silent Hero at the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. Each team consists of one teacher and his or her student. Teams select a Silent Hero who gave his or her life in World War II during or after the Normandy landings of D-Day and is memorialized at the Normandy American Cemetery. Each team spends a year researching the story of this Silent Hero through historical research such as war records, draft cards, and interviews with family members.

In June 2016, the teams travel to Washington, D.C. to finish their research with help from the National Archives, historians, and college professors. While in D.C. the group tours the World War II Memorial, attends a dinner hosted by the White House Historical Association and prepares for the voyage of a lifetime. The final leg of their journey is to Normandy, France where the group visits the D-Day beaches, walking in the footsteps of their Silent Heroes. After visiting museums, historic sites, and churches that were used as field hospitals, the group visits the Normandy American Cemetery. There, the students deliver powerful eulogies for the Silent Heroes they have spent the year researching. Participants in the program are only responsible for the cost of travel to and from Washington, D.C. Travel to France, meals, board, and programs are all paid for by the Institute.

“Throughout their research these students and teachers become incredibly connected to their Silent Heroes,” said National History Day Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “When they read their eulogies they are reading a eulogy for someone they know, someone whose story they are responsible for telling. It results in a powerful, and often tearful, understanding of the sacrifice the students’ Silent Heroes made in WWII.”

The Normandy Sacrifice for Freedom: Albert H. Small Student and Teacher Institute seeks to teach a new generation about the sacrifices and challenges faced during World War II. The program is coordinated by National History Day and is funded by a generous donation from Mr. Albert H. Small, a veteran himself.

Throughout the program, teachers and students create a website about their Silent Hero. After the conclusion of their travels, teams use these websites in presentations to local community groups, schools and classes, and veterans organizations.

“These digital records of the life and actions of a Silent Hero live on long after these teams return,” said Gorn. “They serve as a digital monument to the sacrifices made by the fallen.”

Congratulations to the students and teachers selected for the 2016 Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Albert H. Small Student & Teacher Institute.

Teacher: Mary Bezbatchenko
Student: Spencer Queen
City/State: Pataskala, Ohio

Teacher: David O. Blacketer II
Student: Hannah Doyle
City/State: Pasco, Washington

Teacher: Greg Borchardt
Sudent: Isaac Romer
City/State: Lorena, Texas

Teacher: Cynthia Crothers-Hyatt
Student: Amadea Martino Smith
City/State: Berwyn, Pennsylvania

Teacher: Kelsie Brook
Student: Eckert Matthew Anderson
City/State: Moultonborough, New Hampshire

Teacher: Janelle Gilson
Student: Josh White
City/State: Boise, Idaho

Teacher: Gayla Hammer
Student: Sydney Polson
City/State: Lander, Wyoming

Teacher: Eden C. McCauslin
Student: Kimberly Ortiz
City/State: Washington, D.C.

Teacher: Jake Miller
Student: Liam Kenny
City/State: Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Teacher: Frank O’Grady
Student: Teagan Smith
City/State: Rocky River, Ohio

Teacher: Deborah A. Pettingill
Student: Konner Ross
City/State: Largo, Florida

Teacher: Lou Ann Rives
Student: Joseph Chong
City/State: Charlotte, North Carolina

Teacher: Irene Soohoo
Student: Ally Orr
City/State: Vancouver, Washington

Teacher: Stacey A. Trepanier
Student: Aryasp Nejat
City/State: Chandler, Arizona

Teacher: Suzan Turner
Student: Caleb Lines
City/State: Nashua, Iowa

About National History Day: NHD is a non-profit education organization in College Park, MD. Established in 1974, NHD offers year-long academic programs that engage over half a million middle- and high-school students around the world annually in conducting original research on historical topics of interest. These research-based projects are entered into contests at the local and affiliate levels, where the top student projects have the opportunity to advance to the National Contest at the University of Maryland at College Park. NHD also seeks to improve the quality of history education by providing professional development opportunities and curriculum materials for educators. NHD is sponsored in part by Kenneth E. Behring, Patricia Behring, HISTORY®, Jostens, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Park Service, Southwest Airlines, the Joe Weider Foundation, and the WEM 2000 Foundation of the Dorsey & Whitney Foundation. For more information, visit

Lynne O'Hara
Director of Programs
Phone: 484-919-2595
Press Release