For the second time, school resource officer Phil Hobson is attending the CHS Europe trip as an a chaperone. However, this year’s trip will be different from last year’s because his grandfather, Carl Hobson, a World War II veteran, will accompany him. This is his grandfather’s first time returning to France since the war.
Hobson said, “Years ago, I even had talked to my dad, and I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if someday we could take Grandpa back when there’s not bombs going off and people in the middle of a war? It will be peaceful.’ And I was telling (Will) Ellery (trip sponsor and social studies teacher) about that last year, and he said that he thought it would be really neat if we could my grandfather to go back. This (year’s) trip has a lot more personal meaning, just because of the family aspect and the experience of Grandpa and to appreciate what he did.”
Mr. Hobson landed on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasions on June 7, 1944. He was in the 574th Motor Ambulance Company.
“(My grandfather’s) role there was as a medic,” Hobson said. “He would transport patients from the front line that were injured back to field hospitals.”
The veteran’s presence on the trip makes the experience more meaningful for the people who are attending.
Ellery said, “I’ve guided student trips for 13 years to Europe and never had a veteran go with us. I’ve met veterans over there, just run into them, but there hasn’t been a personal tie to us.”
Junior Lauren Altom, who is attending the trip, said, “I like how it adds more historically relevant aspects to the trip. It makes it more than just a vacation with a teacher.”
According to Ellery, 32 students are attending this year’s trip to Europe. The students will start in southern Belgium and also travel through part of Eastern France. Then, they will go up to Normandy to visit the landing beaches of D-Day. Next, they will visit Mont Saint-Michel, a church on the border between Normandy and Brittany. Finally, they will visit the Palace of Versailles and arrive in Paris.
The trip will highlight some important sites of World War I and World War II. It will also feature a special ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where they will present the veteran with a flag and certificate.
The trip is sure to be an emotional experience for Mr. Hobson.
“He seems to be excited,” Hobson said. “I think he’s not a super emotional person, in general, so I’m kind of worried and curious how he’s going to react. He’ll talk about the war if we ask him questions, but he’s not the person that talks about it a lot.”
“I don’t know if there’s a closure, or if it’s good to stir up memories. But, I just think it will be a pretty powerful, significant moment for us as a family to be in a place where he risked his life and fought for our country and helped other soldiers.” he said.
Ellery said, “I don’t know (Carl Hobson) personally. I can’t imagine, however, that it wouldn’t be emotional. Those guys paid a price that none of us can imagine, and it’s locked in there a lot of times, somewhere.”
The trip with the veteran will also have a significant impact on the students who are attending.
“He was there and saw the horrors of the war, but he also saw the greatness of the American military,” Ellery said. “So there’s hopefully the opportunity for our students to be able to see through his eyes what he sees, looking back on almost seven decades of time that has passed since then. There’s not a better educational lesson for our kids.”
Hobson agreed and said, “I think it will be a neat experience for our kids who are going over there, to actually have that experience and then have someone standing there that was actually in the war that we’re learning about from an educational standpoint.”
From a student’s standpoint, Altom said, “I think it’s really cool to be travelling with the war veteran. I mean, he’s been all over the world and seen and done things that many of us never will in a lifetime. And just to have his perspective on things and where we’re going is really special.”
Not only are the students learning from the experience, but also Ellery said he benefits educationally from the trip.
“For me,” he said, “I actually gain an awful lot of knowledge that informs my teaching. I can tell you, without question, that over the years, this has made me a better history teacher by seeing the sights there.”
The trip will also include some other special stops unrelated to the world wars.
“We are going to a chocolate factory in Belgium and that’s my most favorite thing. And then, I’m really excited to see the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower,” Altom said.
Furthermore, Hobson said he is especially looking forward to creating new memories with all the students that are travelling with him.
“I think it’s wonderful, because my job is proactive here at the school and I deal with sometimes negative situations, where kids are needing assistance, or where they made a mistake,” Hobson said. “And this is something I love because there are so many awesome kids in this school and I see them every day. And just seeing how great our kids are here and getting to experience something like that with a group of students is really neat.”