Student/Teacher Duo Work to Honor Fallen Soldiers


Photo hosted by the Normandy Institute

The Normandy Institute’s goal is to honor the lives of fallen soldiers from WWII.

Skylar Freeman, Staff Reporter

History has been a burning passion for Great Crossing social studies teacher Carla Gray and eleventh grade student Evelyn Johnson.  These two Warhawks have been participating in a program in which they study the lives of soldiers that served their country in WWII.  During the summer of 2022, they will expand their research and memorialize a soldier while traveling to Washington DC, Normandy and Paris, France. 

The Normandy Institute is a unique program that they are working with. It is designed to educate individuals about the D-day campaign and the sacrifices made by American veterans.  It is also a way to help honor one of the many soldiers that passed away.

The selection for this experience was a long process. Students and teachers that wanted to participate had to submit an essay about D-day.  “I’ve signed up for the program a few times, but because of covid, I didn’t get selected to go until this year,” Gray commented. 

Once chosen for the program, the real work began, especially for Johnson.  She had to meet with Gray and develop a plan to research their assigned fallen solider, a man named Thomas Bratton.  Johnson expressed what the first few weeks were like researching this topic. “We wanted to get a better understanding of the war.  We started researching the experiences of war, the lives it affected and what changed because of it.”

Once the research segment is complete, Gray and Johnson will begin the travel portion of the program.  The primary purpose is to respect and honor the fallen soldiers of WWII. During this trip Johnson and Gray  will  travel to Normandy, France where they will deliver a eulogy for Bratton beside his resting place.   Gray feels that this will be a meaningful experience. “It is to bring honor and a story to just a name. It will be a cool experience to help memorize these fallen soldiers,” Gray commented. 

World War II is definitely a hard topic to talk about.   Johnson stated, “This project has given me perspective on how hard it is to research our fallen soldiers. I’m so thankful to be given this opportunity to honor someone who fought for my freedom.”

All travel, course materials, room and board for the participants was fully funded by the generosity of Mr. Albert H. Small, a retired navy sailor who fought in WWII.  Small died on October 3, 2021, but before his death,  he established the Normandy Institute in an effort to remember fallen soldiers.