Home Lifestyle Richmond Raider cadets invade Normandy – Part 1

Richmond Raider cadets invade Normandy – Part 1

Getting ready to go for a nice run up Utah Beach on the first morning that the group woke up in France. Raiders ran over two-and-a-half miles south along the beach, stopped and did a bunch of push-ups, and then ran back. What a great way to acclimatize. Left to right: Jon Ring, Jordan Ballow, Billy Wilson, and Chason Wilson
Contributed photos

NORMANDY — On June 28, six representatives of Richmond Senior High School Army Junior ROTC — Jordan Ballow, Chase Wilson, Billy Wilson, Bryan Wilson, and Mary Ring – all led by retired Lt. Col. Jon Ring, departed for France to visit the World War II monuments, historic battle sites, and key strategic points from D-Day.  

Despite the several-hours flight which was extended by another four-hour drive, the group found that their excitement made it hard to sleep.

The first place they visited was Omaha Beach and the monument that was created for Allied soldiers who gave their lives to take the beaches. The group then traveled to the American Military Cemetery where both the students and chaperones took in the sheer number of gravestones. Each gravestone is lined up perfectly with each other in a giant formation.

Cadets Billy Wilson, Jordan Ballow and Chason Wilson along with instructor Jon Ring and chaperone Bryan Wilson at the memorial in the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer above Omaha Beach. The group from Richmond Senior High’s JROTC program made Omaha Beach their first stop after arrival in France on Saturday. 


The initial tour day was wrapped up with a visit to the Ranger Memorial at Pointe Du Hoc to gain an appreciation for what was accomplished during the lead-up to invasion and by the daring Rangers who scaled 100-foot cliffs to come ashore.  

The long first day concluded as the group met their hostess Irene Duvivier, who accommodates the Raiders in her bed and breakfast house in Quineville — or the northern portion of Utah Beach.

On the second day, the group met with Ring’s friend and fellow paratrooper who is European Theater President of the Liberty Jump Team, Dom Launay.  

Launay, who is from France and served as a paratrooper in the French Army, provided a guided tour for the remainder of the visit. 

During the second day, travels included many different historic sites around Sainte-Mère-Église and the surrounding areas. One of the sites was La Fiere Causeway, which is a road and bridge that the Germans controlled during the initial invasion on D-Day — June 6, 1944. 


Dom Launay shows the Raiders around the village of Graignes where a company of the 507th PIR was miss-dropped nearly 20 miles from their intended drop zone. The paratroopers defended the town and fought off a German attack before departing to continue the mission. Many citizens along with wounded paratroopers were murdered by the SS Nazis following the action.


Many paratroopers died in the taking of the causeway. Failure was not an option for them since the bridge was one of a few ways for vehicles to advance inland from the beaches and into German territory. The group also visited the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église where they saw artifacts of D-Day landings and models of what the soldiers went through to take the beaches.  

The last stop of the day was at a German cemetery where each grave held the remains of six German soldiers. The group had never considered the fact that there would be German cemeteries in the area but, given the heavy losses, it makes sense.  

One of the graves at the German cemetery which has six sets of remains — all unknown German soldiers. There are three German cemeteries in the area that are maintained by the Germans.


The contrasting feelings and emotions between the American cemetery from the previous day and the German cemetery were distinct and varied between members of the group.  At the end of the day, Soldiers mostly do what they are told — they don’t make policy — and those who made the ultimate sacrifice deserve the same respect.  

We are learning and growing a much greater appreciation of what it means to be American — more each day!

Raiders meet with the mayor of Angoville Au Plain, Daniel Brilliard at the church where two medics from the 101st Airborne Division had established an aid station after their jump on the 6th of June, 1944.  


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