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The second time was the charm for Calvert High School history teacher Amie Sanner, who was recently selected with junior Hannah Aris, 16, to travel to France as part of the Normandy Sacrifice for Freedom Institute.

The study on World War II and D-Day will take place from June 15 to 27 and is sponsored by Albert H. Small National History Day.

Sanner and Aris are the only Marylanders selected this year, and Sanner said she had applied for the program last year but was not selected. She said she learned the good news about this year’s study Dec. 28.

“I was freaking out — I was so excited,” she said, continuing that the application process was very detailed.

She first had to invite about 10 of her students to apply with her. Out of that group, Aris was selected based mostly on an essay about her dedication to history, World War II and learning in general.

Sanner said for the group of history teachers who made the selection, Aris was a no-brainer.

“That is the epitome of Hannah. She goes above and beyond on everything,” Sanner said.

Sanner explained she then had to submit essays from both herself and Aris, along with a letter of recommendation from her supervisor.

“I was hoping they’d see my name a second time and think ‘man, she really, really wants this,’” Sanner said.

She and Aris are one of 15 teacher/student teams to be selected for the study on D-Day, which took place June 6, 1944.

“It hasn’t fully set in,” Aris said. “I felt really happy and relieved. It’s like a great honor.”

“I feel it really says something about you as a student and me as a teacher,” Sanner said.

Though they have yet to receive an itinerary, Sanner and Aris said the study will start in Washington, D.C., where the group will visit World War II memorials. They will then travel to Paris to visit more memorials and museums, and then make their way to Normandy, visiting battlefields along the way. Once in Normandy, the group will visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France, where Aris will present a eulogy to a fallen soldier from Maryland and lay a wreath at his grave. According to the U.S. Army’s website, more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded on D-Day, which involved 160,000 Allied troops.

“Most of those guys had no idea what they were in for, and they didn’t turn back and showed no cowardice,” Sanner said.

Prior to going on the trip, Aris said she will have to select a fallen solider from Maryland and create a website for him. Aris said she also will have to read eight books, which have yet to be assigned. Sanner will have to give a presentation to her colleagues following the trip.

“I like to learn about history and this is hands-on history, so I’m really excited,” Aris said.

This is Aris’ second time leaving the country and Sanner’s first.

“I feel like I’m making a difference somehow because I’m honoring people who have done a great amount of service in our world,” Aris said.

Sanner explained that since her brother is in the U.S. Marines, he collected a container full of sand from the beaches of Normandy. Sanner keeps the container in her classroom and passes it around to her students during their unit on D-Day.

“This is sweat, blood and courage. If a bottle of sand means this much to me, you can imagine what I’m going to be like there. I’m going to break down, I know it,” Sanner said.



ldukes@somdnews.com