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Students Retrace D-Day Invasion

August 30, 2017

Students at Windsor Castle  
Yecenia Arango is pictured on the left with two other participants at Windsor Castle.

Nearly two dozen students from community colleges across Missouri embarked on an academic adventure of a lifetime this summer with St. Louis Community College.

Organized through STLCC’s Global Institute, a partnership supported by Maritz, students spent nine days exploring firsthand narratives of World War II military and civilian culture, including the conception, planning and execution of Operation Overlord -- the code name given to the Allied invasion of France.

While STLCC offers study abroad programs each year, the D-Day Invasion course was unique because it included veterans from every branch of the armed forces. Service members, their families, students and alumni from multiple community colleges also participated in the program.

“This study abroad program was developed for veterans as a way to offer them new access to intercultural experiences,” said Chris Sulincevski, coordinator of international programs at STLCC. “By partnering with other community colleges, and working to secure resources in collaboration with their Veterans’ Affairs departments, we were able to support veterans while providing all participants with international experience and knowledge that only exploring other cultures and countries can offer.”

Omaha Beach Memorial  
Students share a contemplative moment at the Omaha
Beach Memorial.

Yecenia Arango, a 2015 STLCC alum who is now pursuing her bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, was among the group’s participants. Arango chose to participate in this program because she had a wonderful experience studying abroad in Italy with STLCC when she was a student.

“When I learned about the D-Day program to Europe, I jumped at the chance to see history in action,” she said. “My favorite experience was the Churchill War Rooms. It was completely overwhelming to see where Churchill commanded his troops and stood strong and alone against Nazi Germany.”

The program facilitators were Mark Applegate, a U.S. Army veteran and assistant professor/department chair of physical education at STLCC-Forest Park, and Dan Yezbick, Ph.D., professor of English at STLCC-Wildwood. The program included guided tours of historic World War II sites and museums. The highlight for all who shared in the experience involved crossing the English Channel to Normandy, France on June 6 -- the 73rd anniversary of the original Allied invasion that led to the eventual liberation of Europe.

“To travel by boat from the coast of England to the beaches of Normandy on the anniversary of D-Day was almost like being part of a real-life reenactment,” Applegate said. “Walking into the water and across the sands of Omaha Beach, just like the brave soldiers did 73 years ago, is something I will never forget.”

Yezbick added: “It was an honor to experience the legacies of war in Europe through the eyes of veterans who have intimate knowledge of the struggle and sacrifice of the armed forces. This was the most important and rewarding learning and teaching experience I have ever had with students.”

Yezbick and Applegate plan to lead a similar study abroad program to Europe in summer 2018. Students who are interested in this course should contact Chris Sulincevski at 314-539-5350 or email him at csulincevski@stlcc.edu.