Kamsack air cadets honored during trip to France to observe 75th anniversary of D-Day

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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“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,” said Karen Bodnaryk, squadron civilian instructor (CI). “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.”

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

The following accounts were written by squadron members:

June 4

Tara Taylor and Megan Raffard

We had to be up at 3 a.m. and ready to board the bus at 3:30 a.m.  The bus took us to the ferry that would take us to France. We arrived at the ferry at 6 a.m. and  at 8;15 a.m. the ferry left Portsmouth and arrived in Caen at 3 p.m. 

We were picked up by another bus and taken to Juno Beach Centre. We were able to visit the bunkers, the Juno Beach Centre and the beach and area where 75 years ago the Canadian soldiers came ashore.

On the way to the hotel the bus stopped at Bény-sur-Mer Canadian war cemetery. This cemetery has 2044 Canadians buried in it from the Battle of Normandy. The cemetery is beautifully landscaped.

The bus then took us to us to our hotel. Supper was served and then it was bedtime as it had been a very long day.

June 5

Keanna Romaniuk and Aidan Broda

Bagnoles de l'Orne is a small town by our hotel. We took a long walk through the town and the scenery was magnificent. Lots of century-old buildings and lots of greenspace.

The bus picked us up and took us to Courseulles-sur-Mer for lunch. Some of the cadets tried the local cuisine but most stuck to burgers.

Then we travelled back to Juno Beach for a practice for June 6. This is where and when we found out what we were actually doing for the ceremony.  The excitement was definitely starting to rise. 

After many a run-through we were back on the bus heading back to our hotel. On the way we stopped at a grocery store to pick up snacks for the next day. It was going to be a long hot day and we needed to be prepared. Back at the hotel we had supper and then it was time to get our uniforms in tiptop shape for the ceremony on June 6th.

June 6…D-Day

Teanna Raffard and Gerri Basaraba

After a 4 a.m. wake-up and 5 a.m. breakfast we got on the bus to Juno Beach.

The bus was full of excited cadets. The French police escorted the buses to Juno Beach; there was very tight security. We had to get there early because of the tight security, so we were able to relax and eat some of the snacks we had purchased for the day that lay ahead. 

Our cadets and the cadets from Vancouver were leading the procession of all the French school children, representing the 359 soldiers Canada lost that day. 

We were lined up on the beach with a cadet and 12 or 13 French students and then another cadet and more students. 

Five of our cadets got to carry a pair of boots and place them on the stage. All of the students and cadets carried either a red or white carnation and placed it on a fence surrounding Juno Beach. 

Once the parade was over we heard speeches from the French President and Prime Minister Trudeau. There were also more speeches from other dignitaries.

Once it was all finished we walked to a nearby town where they had set up supper in a skating arena. 

Back on the bus and back to the hotel. Because it was a very long day and we had had an early supper, one of our officers, Capt. Terry Eritz, finished our day off by buying us pizza.

June 7

Mary-Jo Keewatin-Marion

Today was one of our last days on our Europe trip. Yesterday was the 75th anniversary for D-Day. Everyone was tired and out of energy after the ceremony.

The night before, we had to be packed and ready for the next day. Today we were going on a three-hour bus ride to Paris.

We visited, shopped and had fun. The first stop was the Arc de Triomphe, then on to the Louvre Museum. Last but not least, we finally got to see the Eiffel Tower. That was my favorite part. I have always dreamed of seeing it in person. I can definitely tell you it was bigger than I ever imagined. 

Later, when we were done taking pictures, we headed to a restaurant to eat supper. After that, we took the subway back halfway to our hotel for the night and walked the rest of the way back. Tonight was the last night we would get to say goodbye to our new friends from Vancouver as their flight left at 4:30 a.m. Then it was our turn to leave home. This is an experience I will never forget and will always be etched in my memory.

June 8

Karen Bodnarek, CI (civilian instructor)

We had a very long day flying home. It took 25 hours from the time we got up until we were home. But it was a trip that will be etched in the cadets’ memory banks forever.

We had a great tour director who made us laugh and kept everything running smoothly.  He had many challenges because of the extra security but he always managed to find a way. 

We had a British local tour guide who dressed the part and who had a great sense of British humour. 

Our squadron is so fortunate to have the community support we have. This trip was filled with long days, early mornings and short nights. We learnt that people in England and France appreciate Canadians. Both countries fly the Canadian Flag in many places.  

We cried tears of joy when we were able to participate in the ceremonial parade. If it was not for cadets this would have never happened. We are so grateful for our squadron to be given this chance to be a part of the 75th anniversary of D-Day.  Thanks to all who supported us!

“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.”