The 2015 Normandy Institute Group at Utah Beach in France

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On July 5, fifteen student and teacher pairs returned from Normandy, France where they concluded a year-long program by reading emotional eulogies at the graves of American service members who lost their lives in World War II. 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. Each teacher and student pair chose a service member from their home state who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom in World War II. The fifteen Silent Heroes were honored with eulogies read by the students at their graves in the American cemetery in Normandy, France.

The program is coordinated by National History Day and is funded by a generous donation from Mr. Albert H. Small, a veteran himself. In its fifth year, the program brings students and teachers from around the world to Washington, D.C. for visits to the National Archives, Arlington National Cemetery, and lectures from World War II veterans and historians. The final stage was a journey to Normandy, France where participants traced the route of their Silent Hero, walked on the beaches of Normandy, and, using their extensive research, read a powerful eulogy at the grave of their Silent Hero.

“The impact this program has upon participants is unique in its power and longevity,” said National History Day Executive Director Dr. Cathy Gorn. “Through their research these teams become deeply connected to their Silent Hero and the eulogies they present are awe inspiring and often tear filled.”

Throughout the program, teachers and students create a website about their Silent Hero. In the coming weeks they will use these websites in presentations to local community groups, to their schools and classes, and to 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 these individuals.”

This year the student and teacher teams come from the following areas.

Anthony Blas (Guam)
Erin Coggins (Alabama)
Rachel Couch (Indiana)
Nichole Flynn (Nebraska)
Sarah Henkel (Illinois)
Margaret Holtgreive (Wisconsin)
David Howard (Minnesota)
Kyle Johnson (Kansas)
Whitney Joyner (Tennessee)
Lisa Lauck (Missouri)
Thomas Leighty (Delaware)
Kelly "Simon" Matney (Missouri)
Lisa-Brit Wahlberg (Connecticut)
John Werkmeister (Pennsylvania)
Al Wheat (Mississippi)

Lazaro Quinata (Guam)
Erin Stender (Alabama)
Nicole Cordes (Indiana)
Vanessa Taylor (Nebraska)
Lilliana Delao (Illinois)
Julia Brunson (Wisconsin)
Emma Mulhern (Minnesota)
Dawson Podlena (Kansas)
Scott Moore (Tennessee)
Audrey Calovich (Missouri)
Spencer Valenti (Daelaware)
Barrett Young (Missouri)
Connor Lisle (Connecticut)
Joshua Slayton (Pennsylvania)
Isaiah McKay (Mississippi)

To interview any participants or coordinators, please contact Gary Pettit at 301.405.0536 or

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