Normandy Camporee

Troop 457 from the Brussels American School traveled together by bus with Pack 325 from the SHAPE International School to the Omaha Beach camping ground in the Normandy region of France April 25-27 to participate in the Boy Scouts of America Transatlantic Council Spring Camporee honoring the 70th anniversary of the successful Operation Overlord D-Day Normandy invasion.

We set up our camp at 1:30 in the morning in the rain after an eight-hour bus ride. Not a problem for our troop, since we are used to camping in the rain and arriving at our campsite in the dark. After basic tent set-up and equipment storage under tarps to protect from the pouring rain, we slept until 9 a.m. and then continued with the camp installation.

Our first tour was to a town called Saint Mere-Eglise, where we visited the church that the paratrooper got stuck on the steeple of. The inside of the church had beautiful stained-glass windows with scenes honoring the paratroopers. I lit a prayer candle for a paratrooper who recently died. After seeing the church we visited the Airborne museum across the parking lot. It had many historic artifacts donated from veterans, and also a glider plane and a C-47 airborne troop plane. The museum is constructing a new building and the roof looks like an airplane wing.

After Saint Mere-Eglise, we rode the bus to the Pointe du Hoc memorial maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission. We liked visiting the bunkers and walking in the deep crater holes still remaining after the U.S. Navy bombed the coastline during the war. The Ranger museum was really interesting to visit.

Next on the trip agenda was returning to the campsite and beginning the official camporee program. We walked along Omaha Beach until we arrived at the camporee site. Three members of our troop were selected to become members of the Order of the Arrow during a ceremony on the beach. I was one of the three. We then listened to many French dignitaries and the national Boy Scout leaders talk about service and sacrifice, and saw the French jet fly over us.

On Sunday morning we went to the Normandy American Cemetery and participated in the memorial ceremony. There were an estimated 3,000 total participants. U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Schissler was the master of ceremonies. Again, many dignitaries spoke and then all the Scout troops present laid a wreath in honor of the World War II veterans who served and who died for our freedom.

This was my second camporee at Normandy. I also participated during the April 2011 camporee, when we raised the green cards and had our picture taken from a photographer in an airplane.

The trips are worth the eight-hour bus drive. Good fun, memories and respect for the soldiers who fought.