Our Last Day in France

Today was Team EU’s final day in Reims, France, and it was one of our busiest days yet.

We began with a visit to the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery, where four Culver Military Academy alums are buried. Here, the Wreath Laying Ceremony was carried out, with four Culver students (Dylan Lewandowski ’18, Andrew Crowell ’18, Isabelle Landy ’19, Gretchen Issom ’20) taking turns laying a wreath as well as reading out words of remembrance over each gravestone of the Culver alums. To wrap up the ceremony, Taps was played by John Youngs ’18.

As one of the students who participated in the Ceremony, I believe I speak for everyone when I say how thankful I am for having been given the chance to honor these brave men, and how it was a memorable way to express our gratitude for their sacrifice.

When we left the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, it was nearly lunchtime and we made our way into town to stop at the museum café, which was exactly as it sounds. After enjoying a lunch of baguette sandwiches, we had some time to explore the “museum” side of the restaurant: a large private collection of personal belongings of many soldiers.

Our next chunk of time was devoted to roaming the new Verdun Memorial Museum. This museum explains in detail the battle at Verdun, dwelling on the effects it had on the French and German armies. It is an engaging museum that covers topics from how soldiers spent their free time, to the systems of medical care on the front lines.

The final stop was the L’Ossuaire de Douaumont. This is a French memorial to their soldiers who lost their lives during WWI. While we have mainly visited memorials of American forces in WWI, it was just as important to recognize the effects WWI had on all involved parties, and to show respect to the French soldiers as well.

When we returned, our hotel had set up a petting zoo in the lobby (in honor of Easter), and it was hard not to smile at the rabbits, chickens, and goats. This not only brightened the mood, but helped pass the time until dinner.

At 7:30 pm, everyone sat down to a lovely dinner at the hotel, reminiscent of our very first night in Ghent. A last-minute no-cell-phone policy was enacted to make sure we all were involved in conversation.

During tonight’s reflection, we agreed it is an emotional experience to see rows upon rows of gravestones, or names etched in walls, and realize that these were all once people, seldom older than the high school students that make up our group. It is important we make sure to be appreciative of the time we live in, and remember those we lost. This in part comes from understanding our duty, and how these men were carrying out theirs. Should the time come for us to do the same, we shall also rise to the occasion.

Some of the other gratitudes expressed included many appreciative remarks for our chaperones- who have been our tour guides, our mentors, our parents, and so much more for the entirety of this trip.

Tomorrow is the final full day before departure, and we have every intention of making the most of our time together before this journey concludes.

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