RAF ALCONBURY, England --
As Europe celebrated the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, military families learned about its significance through an educational initiative hosted by the 423rd Force Support Squadron, May 8, 2020, at RAF Alconbury, England.
While keeping with COVID-19 physical distancing guidelines, the self-guided walking tour on base was geared toward teaching children and families the events that led to the end of World War II as they exercised.
“Normally we have many base events, but because of COVID-19 we cannot do that,” said Mary McLean, 423rd FSS deputy director. “We thought that with V-E Day coming up, many families who are stationed here as well as their children [could better understand] what that means.”
The walking tour included self-learning opportunities at locations around the base. Families had the opportunity to complete redeployment passports, draw a picture to commemorate V-E Day, read historical facts about the holiday and bring a painted rock from home to place in a memorial garden. They also added a U.S. or U.K. flag to the garden while remembering those who lost their lives during the war, brought prepared World War II letters from the perspective of a military member about to return from war and collected prizes along the way.
“While they’re exercising and still keeping their [physical] distancing, we wanted to give them the opportunity to read signs that tell you a little bit about what V-E Day is, what World War II was and what the role of the 501st was during that time frame, as far as Alconbury and Molesworth,” said McLean.
The 423rd FSS ensured physical distancing and safety remained at the forefront of their initiative. All activities were spaced more than six feet apart, and a supply of hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes was on hand at each station. When picking up their guide, families were directed to take one of three routes lasting approximately 45 minutes, allowing for additional safety precautions.
“What we want to ensure is that one, safety is paramount,” said Lt. Col. Jarvora Duncan, 423rd FSS commander. “Two, [that our community] embraces that history between the United States and the U.K., to celebrate this day with them. Also, [we want to] present historical facts to American children so they can understand. It’s the 75th anniversary and this is truly my first time understanding that V-E Day is really big here in Europe…now we’re planting those seeds inside U.S. dependents. What a lovely day to get out and exercise, staying within the U.K. guidance.”
Children and families walked, ran and biked across the base, as they learned something new about their host nation.
“Today [my children] finished homeschooling early so that they could come out to participate,” said Jessica Pleus, a parent who completed the walking tour with her two children. “They were very excited. It’s so nice that they [423rd FSS] organized this for us. Thank you! They didn’t know what V-E Day was. It’s funny how just living abroad they learn so much. They know now that it stands for Victory in Europe, and it’s 75 years since the end of World War II.”
Having the opportunity to exercise as a family, while learning historical facts about the land where they currently reside, brought many smiles to people’s faces. Children read historical information to their parents, and vice versa.
“We just want them while they’re exercising to have a little more purpose to it,” said McLean. “So hopefully after today people learned a little about V-E Day.”