Sayville Trip to Normandy Has Ties That Bind
Sayville VFW Post 433 was excited to learn that Sayville students had scheduled a study-trip to France and England during February break. As part of their itinerary, the Sayville High School students, along with faculty Jennifer Berotti (Art), Mike Pace (Social Studies), and Doug Shaw (English), were planning to visit the Normandy War Memorial. To honor those veterans, VFW Post 433 funded the cost of flowers and requested the SHS students honor the memorial with a beautiful bouquet.
Sayville High School students Collin Alcabes (grandson of VFW Post 433 member Michael Alcabes) and Terina Imperato (daughter of VFW Post 433 member Christopher Imperato) presented the flowers. It was a moving and remarkable experience for the students to learn about the history of Normandy, touch the soil where so many of our men lost their lives, and see for themselves Omaha Beach.
On His February-Break trip to Normandy, Sayville Student Connects with Family History
See also (below) another student story, written by Sayville High School English teacher Doug Shaw:
When students and adults from Sayville High School returned from a week-long study trip to France and England last month, they brought with them the usual array of souvenirs: University of Paris sweatshirts, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tea towels, and sand from the Normandy Beaches. They returned with memories of a week spent wandering the streets of Paris, the gardens of Versailles, the galleries of the Louvre and the Tower of London. One student, however, carried very personal remembrances of a remarkable experience he had on the northern coast of France, at the American Cemetery in Normandy.
Every February, groups of Sayville students have the opportunity to get an up-close look at the European art and history they have been studying. For the past fourteen years, students have travelled to Europe’s major cities and historical sites. This year’s trip began in Paris, wended north through the French countryside to Normandy, crossed the English Channel to Canterbury and finished in London. Students were able to get an up close look at the Mona Lisa and the works of Van Gogh in Paris. They visited the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, the university town of Canterbury with its soaring cathedral and finished their week with London’s West End production of Wicked. Stuffed with crepes, Croque Monsieur and fish and chips, the students and their teachers returned to Sayville with a greatly expanded worldview.
One student, Christopher Pitre, however, travelled across the ocean only to learn more about his family at home. As a child, Chris had heard stories of his great-uncle, Anthony Cacace, a Staff Sergeant with the 66th Division of the 262 Infantry. SSG Cacace was lost at sea off Normandy as his ship, the USS Leopoldville, was torpedoed by the German submarine, U-486 as it approached the French Coast on Christmas Eve, 1944. When Chris arrived at Normandy, after the Sayville students had visited the museum and laid a wreath at the war memorial, he made his way to the visitors’ center. He presented his uncle’s name, and was almost immediately asked if he had ever seen a picture of his heroic relative.
Cemetery staff brought Chris behind their desks and showed him items from their archive, including a picture of Cacace and a letter from Chris’ great grandmother to her son, which was, sadly, never delivered. Chris was given copies of the archive, and driven out to the memorial, where his uncle’s name is engraved. Cemetery staff conducted a brief flag ceremony and presented Chris with a French and an American flag. They sincerely thanked Chris and his family, on behalf of the French people, for their sacrifice at the end of World War II. They reminded Chris that were it not for the sacrifices of people like his uncle, the map of Europe would look very different today. The staff invited Chris to receive the American flag which flies over the American Cemetery that afternoon at the Military Retreat Ceremony. Most American visitors return from Normandy with a small container of sand from one of the landing beaches; Chris Pitre returned with far more.