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Chapel Hill students who sponsored World War 2 veterans return from Normandy with new perspective

The trip was able to teach the students a better understanding of D-Day that they couldn't have learned in a classroom.

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Bryan Mims, WRAL reporter
Robbie Vaglio, WRAL.com intern

Six Chapel Hill high school students saw two World War II veterans as people who saved the world, so they wanted to make sure they were able to spend the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at the historic site.

The students hail from both Chapel Hill High School and East Chapel Hill High School and worked with their French teachers Robin McMahon and Tony Carter to make the trip possible. In all, they raised $32,000 to travel to Normandy with the veterans.

"These veterans have done so much for us in securing our liberties and our freedoms," one of the students Matthew Griesedieck said on why the students decided to start the fundraising campaign.

George Chall, 96, one of the veterans who was sponsored, served as an Army medic during the war. He arrived in Normandy two months after the invasion and treated many wounded soldiers. Chall served with General Patton's 3rd Army through four WWII war campaigns, including the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes.

"Each of them remains a capsule in my mind," Chall said.

Jacques Michienzi, 95, was honored with Chall and was an Army Airborne Ranger who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

In the eyes of the students, the fundraiser allowed them to expand their knowledge of D-Day in ways that you can't experience in the classroom.

"A lot of times when we learn about World War II, it's through history and literature," student Cathy Charles said. "This project took this to another level or learning, and I got a better understanding of the physical, mental and emotional aspects."

The teachers organized a similar trip five years ago for the 70th anniversary and wanted to do it again this year.

The students said they plan to return to Normandy in the future.

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