On my fourth trip to the Normandy, France D-day Beaches, I took my father and mother along. As a daughter of a World War II veteran and with many uncles and relatives serving (and some perishing) in that war, I have always had a keen interest in all things World War II.
My father Russell Barager of Spooner, Wisconsin, served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific (LSM 326). Before that he was in the Merchant Marines. My mother’s brother, Richard Kava, was a navigator with Bomber Group 450, The Flying Cottontails. He never came home from Italy.
I knew this trip to Normandy would be more emotional traveling with a veteran couple, and it was. The local residents of the Normandy region were so kind. My father had his Navy hat on, and so many people went out of their way to shake his hand, thank him for his service and welcome him to the beaches. They even bought him a beer!
We happened to visit on a day when there was a service to honor a U.S. Normandy veteran who had passed away. One veteran, perhaps someone he served with, was in a wheelchair along with another veteran there with flowers to place on the memorial. Taps was playing as the flag was lowered. There were about 100 people there that day – not a dry eye, and you could hear a pin drop. It's a peaceful, spiritual ground, our American cemetery near Omaha beach. You can't help but be moved by the amount of headstones, the sound of the waves nearby, and the sheer magnitude of what happened.
It was on this trip that I realized I wanted to somehow bring a piece of Normandy and the story of the brave participants who played a role in this war to future generations who may not be as closely connected as I am. The idea to create a charity that celebrated the heroes and the sacrifices of these men and women by awarding scholarships to deserving young college-bound students seemed like a perfect fit. In order to receive the scholarship award, along with scholastic achievement and financial need, the applicants must write in their own words what the lessons, events and historical significance of World War II mean to them. Lineage to a veteran is not required. We simply want to engage them in learning about this time in history. We enjoy their perspective and have been greatly impressed with the quality of their writings.
So please join me in helping our future generations come to know our greatest generation.
Barbara (Barager) Fasola