In the 100-year history of the Boy Scouts, the group has grown past it’s founding in England and America into an international organization.
By Jose Latorre
In the 100-year history of the Boy Scouts, the group has grown past it’s founding in England and America into an international organization. I am originally from Spain, and was a Cub Scout there with the Transatlantic Council before I moved to New York. Every three years, the Council hosts a gathering on the beaches of Normandy to commemorate “Operation Overlord,” the biggest amphibious assault in history. D-Day involved over 5,000 vessels, preceded by a 1,200-plane airborne assault. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on one night, and more than three million Allied troops were in France by the end of August.
Coming from a military family, I have always been interested in military history. D-Day is an inspiration to me, because of the great sacrifice that countless young men made for their countries. On one side, thousands of soldiers went into this battle with generosity, dedicated to defeating fascism in Europe, and on the other, hordes of soldiers defended the beaches out of obedience and devotion to their country. In my opinion, most of them were heroes in a way. Today, thousands of them rest in peace in the dozens of military cemeteries in that area.
Even though I am now a member of Rye Troop 2, my father and I were invited back by our former Scouting Council to participate in the commemoration, which took place during my spring break. Before the commemoration weekend, we toured the beaches, the landing zones, and several military memorials. From our campsite on Omaha Beach, we went to view the landing spot, where 3,000 American infantrymen were killed within 30 minutes on the first day of the campaign. We took pictures of the monument of the Big Red One (US First Infantry Division), and said a prayer for all the young men who gave their lives to liberate France.
The Normandy Scouting Jamboree officially opened April 25. The groups visited the Memorial at Caen, and saw the Operation Overlord exhibition there. The Council had done a lot of work to welcome us with games and refreshments. My father and I decided to go and view the movie “Arromanches 360,” which was shown in an enormous cylindrical room with ten screens. The realistic film showed the nightmare of battle. My favorite activity of the day was visiting Longuest-sur-Mer, a preserved German battery where the four huge cannons are still in place.
The following morning we attended a service at Bayeux Cathedral to pray for those killed in action. World War II veterans and hundreds of Scouts from different countries attended this emotional ceremony, at which we prayed for peace, sang together in Latin, French, and English, and recited the Scout Law and Oath in Polish, English, German, and French.
My father was a colonel in the Spanish paratroopers, so it was important for us to visit the Airborne Museum at Sainte Marie l’Eglise (in this village, an American paratrooper once got caught on the tower of the church, and hung there all night until a German soldier helped him down the next morning). Later that day, we attended a multi-media event, and participated in a campfire on Omaha Beach. We enjoyed an enormous paella dinner prepared for almost 5,000 people and beautiful fireworks to close an unforgettable day.
Sunday was the official closure of the Jamboree. We attended a ceremony at the American Cemetery, where flag bearers lined up next to the Memorial Statue, and scouts brought flowers to present on behalf of their units. Families and troops each took turns approaching the sites, where we lay flowers, and spent a private moment.
I know that I will never forget the experiences I had. I believe that the Normandy Jamboree is one of the greatest activities a Scout can possibly participate in; it helps foster a deep appreciation for all of the soldiers who gave their lives to free their countries. Their sacrifice is not forgotten by our generation, and we recognize it with this Jamboree.