Editor’s Note: This is a story about a one-in-a-lifetime trip to Normandy to participate in the 75th anniversary of D-Day that former ACHS principal Linda Hoskins took with her grandson, Aden Scott, and his Oskaloosa classmates. We really can’t do the trip justice in the relatively few inches of space available, which is why we encourage you to go to Linda’s Facebook page and view her daily blog of the trip.

By DAVE PAXTON

Editor and Publisher

For Linda Hoskins, a career history and social studies teacher at Albia Community High School, joining her grandson, Aden Scott, with his Oskaloosa High School classmates at the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing on Normandy was almost too much to comprehend.

For Aden, a self-described history buff, it was a trip of a lifetime. He is already planning for a return trip in three years (following high school graduation) when he can spend more time in the dozens of war museums found throughout Normandy and France.

Hoskins, now retired as teacher, coach and administrator at Albia, has made numerous trips to Europe, but signing on as a chaperone with 47 students from Oskaloosa, the Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont district and a group of New Jersey students, to make the trip to Normandy was something special.

“We got to spend time in Rome seeing the Cystine Chapel, the Coliseum and the Vatican,” said Hoskins. “It was nothing compared to the D-Day observance.”

Prior to joining in the D-Day 75th observance, Aden remembered best the visit to Monte Casino, the site of one of the greatest feats of WWII heroism by U.S. and Polish troops. “To see the mountain where Americans and Polish troops climbed to defeat the German held abbey was amazing,” he said.

The group flew into the Normandy Region of France and the drive to the beaches was through beautiful countryside. One of the first things they saw upon reaching the area above Omaha Beach was the grave markers in the American Cemetery and Memorial.

“Until you see the cemeteries and walk past the perfectly aligned crosses and Star of David markers, you just can’t appreciate what it represents,” said Hoskins.

The tour took grandmother and grandson up and down the beaches of Normandy, making stops at Utah and Omaha Beach, seeing Pointe du Hoc where Rangers climbed straight up the cliffs in the face of withering German fire to take out machine gun nests and bunkers containing canons that threatened Allied war ships.

“I still can’t believe they did what they did,” said Aden. “It was so crazy that American soldiers did this.”

The group sat quite a ways back among the 15,000 or so gathered for the official D-Day ceremony. “We were able to see President Trump on a huge screen,” said Hoskins. “His speech was really beautiful.”

So were the French people who mingled among the thousands of Americans. “Everywhere we went, the French were there showing their gratitude and indebteness to the United States,” said Hoskins.

There were also dozens of American WWII veterans in the crowd, all in their mid-90s. “We met one of the youngest soldiers to land at Omaha Beach,” said Aden. “His name was Jack Gutman and he was a medic.” Gutman’s story is that he returned home, haunted by what he had experienced, became an alcoholic, defeated alcoholism and became a comedian, spending his life helping other veterans overcome the trauma of war. “He told us that the greatest thing he had ever done was helping prevent three veterans from taking their own lives,” said Aden.

The group also visited personally with four veterans who took part in the landing at Utah Beach, one a pilot, another a Navy signalman and two others infantrymen.

The day the group actually set foot on Omaha Beach was cold, wet and windy, not unlike the weather conditions 75 years before. History records that Dwight Eisenhower postponed the invasion a day because of terrible conditions and rough seas and then gave the go ahead on June 6 despite continued rain and choppy seas. “It’s hard to describe the feeling standing on the beach,” said Hoskins. “I get choked up just thinking about it.”

There was so much to take in and think about, one quote stood out to Hoskins. “It was really profound,” she said. “Do all the good you can to make those who lost their lives mean something.”

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