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CHCCS Students Continue to Raise Money to Send WWII Veterans to Normandy for D-Day’s 75th Anniversary

As part of their ongoing NC to Normandy Campaign, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools students and staff hosted a Greatest Generation event on Saturday, February 2 at the North Carolina Botanical Gardens. The NC to Normandy campaign is organized by students and teachers Robin McMahon and Tony Carter at Smith Middle School (SMS) and Chapel Hill High School (CHHS) to raise money to send two World War II veterans to Normandy for the 75th Commemoration Ceremonies this June.

NC to Normandy strives to honor those in service of our country and to give veterans a chance to return to places they liberated years ago. For NC to Normandy’s third campaign, two veterans were chosen to accompany the six students and two advisors.

Chall as WWII soldier WWII veteran George Chall was a medic in George Patton's third army and was involved in four campaigns during the war. At the height of the Battle of the Bulge, his unit supported the 101st Airborne Division and other besieged U.S. forces. Chall also speaks German and served as a linguist as he cared for German prisoners of war.

The second WWII veteran is Lt. Col. Jacques Michienzi, who is a decorated war hero, having served in WWII, Korea and two tours in Vietnam. In WWII, he was a platoon sergeant in the U.S. Army 17th Airborne Division, and his unit served at the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944. Over his career, he earned several bronze stars, silver stars, purple hearts, the Legion of Merit, and the Distinguished Service Cross.

The event at the NC Botanical Garden Indoor Center was at capacity with more than 10 WWII veterans and their families, members of the community and representatives from NBC Nightly News.

After time for mingling and hors d’oeuvres, Bill Melega, a history teacher at CHHS, recounted the history of the Battle of the Bulge, a brutal German offensive campaign against the Allied forces. Despite adversity, the Allies were able to prevail and undercut the strength of the German army. According to Melega, it is important to see these parts of American history in person. During his presentation, Melega said, “I get electric chills every time I go, and I believe everyone should go at least once in their lifetime.”

WWII vet Jacques Students involved in NC to Normandy gave various reasons for their dedication to the program. Many want to honor the memories of their family members who were veterans. One student stated that as someone who is Jewish, she wants to honor the lost lives of the Jewish people before they were saved by veterans.

“The event was a great success,” said Carter, SMS social studies teacher who will accompany the group in June. “Mr. Melega gave an intriguing look into the events of the Battle of the Bulge. We had 11 WWII veterans attend the event, in which they were able to meet and mingle with the audience. Tandem Restaurant served a delicious spread, and the Botanical Gardens room looked amazing. Our students presented the project, and the silent auction went well. We received a number of donations and publicity.”

McMahon, a French teacher at SMS and one of the lead organizers, said, “The students want the veterans to travel as comfortably as possible so they insisted on business class flights to France. The flights for two veterans and their companions cost close to $25,000, and that is what the students are working to raise. So far we have approximately $14,000 and are in the process of planning more community fundraisers. The students meet every weekend to plan fundraising events, write thank you notes to donors and prepare for one of the most important events of their lifetime: escorting WWII veterans back to the lands they liberated...it's an honor and we cannot wait!”

The NC to Normandy campaign and its students have been featured in local media on WCHL's Aaron Keck ShowWRAL and WTVD.  NBC Nightly News attended the Greatest Generation fundraiser to include the event as part of Lester Holt’s coverage of the 75th D-Day Anniversary.  

For anyone who would like to make a contribution to NC to Normandy, donations may be made online or checks can be sent to The Public School Foundation at 750 Merritt Mill Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27516.  The NC to Normandy campaign is also seeking company sponsorship to help offset the costs involved.  For any company interested in being a sponsor or for more information on being a corporate sponsor, please contact either McMahon at rmcmahon@chccs.k12.nc.us or Carter at mcarter@chccs.k12.nc.us.