Cadets prepare for major D-Day anniversary tour

Ponoka’s Air Cadets is taking a 10-day tour through the war sites and memorials of Europe to honour and experience the 70th anniversary

Rebecca Nicholson (left) and her sister Sarah are attending the Air Cadets European battlefield tour next spring

Ponoka’s Air Cadets is taking a 10-day tour through the war sites and memorials of Europe to honour and experience the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

The trip takes place next spring, but the cadets began fundraising 14 months ago in order to ensure the funds would be in place for early deposits and down payments.

“As far as I know, we’re only the second squadron in Alberta to go on this trip internationally,” said chairperson Evelyne Cehuseby.

“This trip will change them,” she added. “They will be walking where soldiers walked and they will be walking where soldiers died.”

Along with fundraising to lower the cost of the trip, the cadets also had to complete a mandatory educational project. “The projects are for them to understand a little better what we’re going to be doing there,” said Cehuseby.

During the tour, Ponoka’s cadets will have an opportunity to participate in specialized events with other cadets from around the world, and Cehuseby is waiting — and hoping — for permission from the Department of Defence allowing the cadets to wear their uniforms during parts of the tour.

Attending the tour are cadets, ages 13 to 18, aged out cadets and four officers.

Warrant Officer Rebecca Nicholson and her sister Sarah, Flt. Cpl., are looking forward to the trip because it may be their first opportunity to visit their great-grandfather’s grave. “Only one other family member has been to see his grave,” said Rebecca.

She’ll have aged out by next spring but says being invited to still partake in the tour is an “amazing opportunity.”

“It means a lot that I get to go there with my younger sister,” said Rebecca. “I think it’s going to really shape what I want to do with my life, my career.”

Sarah is most excited to learn and experience the history of the war in more intimate setting that school social classes allow for. “It’s really interesting learning about the wars; to feel what the other soldiers might have.”

The cadets leave Canada May 30 or 31 and land in London. Other major stops along the tour include Paris, Lille and Brussels.