Kamsack air cadets participate in D-Day ceremony at Juno Beach

Eleven Kamsack air cadets with their three adult supervisors returned to Canada on June 8 after a nine day trip to Europe to help observe the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

The cadets first flew to London, England where they toured for three days before taking the ferry to France where they participated in services at Juno Beach on June 6 and then flew home from Paris.

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“We are back, we are tired and we are excited to share are experiences,” Karen Bodnaryk, the civilian instructor who accompanied the cadets, said in a Facebook post. “My Fitbit tells me we walked at least 122,339 steps.

“We walked around London, went to the war museum, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Bletchey Park and the Churchill war rooms,” Bodnaryk said. “We travelled by ferry from England to France, where visited the Juno Beach Centre and saw the old war bunkers. We visited Beny-sur-mer and the Canadian Cemetery, and in Paris we visited what is left of Notre Dame Cathedral and saw the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum where most of us got to see the Mona Lisa.

“We had a very funny tour director who had to do a lot on the fly because of unexpected security issues and we enjoyed having a local London tour guide who had dressed the part and he too was very funny.

“But the most humbling experience was on June 6 when our squadron was a part of 359 cadets and French school children who paraded across Juno Beach and up the hill to the ceremony,” she said. “Five of our cadets carried boots to place on the stage to symbolize the soldiers who had perished on the beach, all our cadets placed red and white carnations on a fence to represent the soldiers we lost that day.

“It was so emotional and a few tears were shed.

“But our town supports us! Our town supports us by buying lottery and dinner tickets, Mom’s Pantry products and community calendars. Residents donate redeemable cans and bottles and cyclists raised money by riding their bikes to Yorkton and back.

“You, our community, is the reason our squadron can do the things we do,” Bodnaryk said. “Thank You Kamsack.”

Cadets on the trip were: WO1 Keanna Romaniuk, WO2 Cade Henry-Martino, F/Sgt. Aiden Broda, F/Sgt. Megan Raffard, Sgt. Tara Taylor, F/Cpl. Sage Tourangeau, F/Cpl. Gerri Basaraba, F/Cpl. Teanna Raffard, F/Cpl. Josh Hilton, Cpl. Mary-Jo Marion-Keewatin and Cpl. Talisha Pelly.

Accompanying the cadets were 2Lt. Karen Tourangeau, the squadron’s commanding officer, and Karen Bodnaryk, the civilian instructor. With them was Cpt. Terry Eritz of Yorkton.

Karen Tourangeau admitted last week to still having goosebumps when thinking of the D-Day service when five Kamsack cadets had the honour of carrying five pairs of boots up from the beach and how 359 cadets and students from Canada and France brought red and white carnations to the service to represent the 359 Canadians who had died before reaching land.

The cadets were divided into groups of two to chronicle their trip, two days for each group. Following are the accounts of the first two groups: Karen Tourangeau and Sage Tourangeau, the first two days, and Josh Hilton and Aiden Broda, the next two days. The accounts of the other cadets will be printed in subsequent issues.

“The day started early,” Sage and Karen wrote. “We all left before 8 a.m. to Regina where we met at 11:30. Everyone was excited.

“The two Karens (Tourangeau and Bodnaryk) got our boarding passes and we went upstairs and waited for two hours before we got on the plane. We arrived in Toronto at 5:30 p.m. and had a long wait for our departure at midnight.

“After a seven-hour flight through the night, we arrived in London, England at noon and hit the ground running. No stopping. Jet lag was happening, but the cadets braved on.

“We were on the tour with another cadet squadron from Vancouver, B.C.

“We took a walking tour of the centre of London, crossing the Thames River. London was very busy; cars coming from all places.

“Our tour guide was Scott, an absolutely smashing Aussie who lives in London. Our first supper was great British food; we had chicken pot pie.”

“On Day two, we woke up at 7:15 for breakfast and left the hotel an hour later,” said the account written by Hilton and Broda. “We toured central London for two hours. Scott instructed us on how to go on a subway because it is very busy. We ate lunch at a burger restaurant and then toured a museum and walked to our place for dinner which was pork with Yorkshire pudding.

“We went to see the Tower of London and Tower Bridge and returned to the hotel.

“Day three started at 7:15,” Broda and Hilton said. “We had breakfast downstairs in the hotel and departed for another tour of London. We got to see a lot of important buildings and monuments, including the war museum where we learned about all the wars that happened right here in the United Kingdom.

“Following the museum tour, we walked to a small restaurant and had supper.”

“We actually got to sleep in today (Day 4) till 7 a.m.,” Karen Bodnaryk said. “We travelled to Bletchley Park. This is a mansion where a small secret team was set up to run intelligence activities, mainly code breaking.

“When we arrived, we were allowed to go through the museum and participate in activities that depict the war era,” Bodnaryk said. “The cadets wore articles of the 1940s, learned how to dance the Charleston and sat in a school classroom that also was set in the 40s.

“After lunch we had free time in central London. We walked around the city where our tour director pointed out items of interest, including All Hallows-by-the-Tower, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London where the crown jewels are secured, and other monuments and statues.

“After supper we went to the Churchill war room, where British Prime Minister Winston Churchill took his leaders underground during the war. It is where they slept and ate, while they plotted their next moves to victory during the Second World War.”

Additional comments and photos will be printed in subsequent issues.