Storytelling from the source
As the veterans took to the stage at the event, they got a rockstar-worthy welcome from the crowd. We’re talking raucous applause, whistles, and even tears. And students weren’t the only ones feeling the excitement. One veteran couldn’t wait to meet his audience, so he hopped off the stage and “dove” into the crowd. The best part? Seeing a mob of high schoolers rush to greet him.
The veterans spoke about their experiences on D-Day, the memories they still carried with them, and what it was like to be back on this sandy battlefield. And in between, they doled out a few life lessons, too.
After a panel discussion, veterans posted up at picnic tables intended to facilitate conversation with students—and even ended up signing a few autographs. “My students came out of their comfort zones just by going up and speaking to a few of the veterans,” said Kelli B., a social studies teacher from Illinois. “I think they felt that thanking them for their service was the least they could do.”
Nearby, in the Utah Beach Landing Museum, students were glued to their phones. But that’s because they were exploring the story of Jack Port, the last living Utah Beach veteran, through an augmented reality app created by EF for the event. The experience features interviews with Jack, archival videos, and artifacts like his Purple Heart and postcards from basic training. (Travelers who visit the museum can still follow Jack’s journey on the app.)