R. Roger Rowe School will host a special screening of “Libertas,” a documentary commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 11 a.m. in the performing arts center.
The Normandy Jump 2019 documentary features Coronado native Tom Rice, who was a World War II paratrooper attached to the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division when he parachuted behind enemy lines on D –Day June 6, 1944, the day that the Allied forces invaded France on the beaches of Normandy. Rice went back to Normandy in June 2019 and the documentary tells the story behind his experience 75 years ago and his historic return.
Rice will be in attendance for the screening and participate in a post-screening panel discussion. In addition to meeting Rice, guests will also be able to get their picture taken with a replica C-47 plane door like the one that Rice jumped from.
“This is a living history community event,” said Rowe teacher Stacey Halboth, who helped organize the screening.
Proceeds from the fundraiser will directly support Honor Flight San Diego, an organization that provides an opportunity for World War II and Korean War veterans to travel to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials built for their service and sacrifice. The three-day trips conclude with a huge heroes homecoming at the airport.
The screening will also support Normandy Jump 2019 as they fund Rice’s trip back to Normandy in 2020 to jump again with his WWII 101st Airborne brother.
The next Honor Flight is scheduled for May 1-3 this year and several members in the Rancho Santa Fe community have been raising funds to send veterans to D.C.
Rowe students have been holding a coin drive to sponsor Solana Beach resident Ruth Gunther, a 100-year-old World War II veteran. In 1943 at age 23, Gunther volunteered for the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) as a nurse; during the war she was stationed at Corona Naval Hospital in Norco, where she cared for injured sailors and marines. She has shared her stories in two memoirs and she will be selling books at the Jan. 25 event.
Rowe students have been generous, with nickels and pennies filling up the jars spread throughout campus, raising $700 so far of the $2,500 needed.
One of the largest donors to the drive was Lendy C., a third grader who donated $100 that she received for her 9th birthday.
Lendy had already been making efforts to support the military this school year—on Veterans Day, Lendy wrote a letter to her teacher Laura Hansen’s fiance Robert Hunt, who is currently a Marine deployed in the Philippines. After she wrote the letter, she heard about the coin drive and Gunther.
“I would give the money no matter what. She [Gunther] deserves to go to Washington, D.C. to see the statues because how she served our country in WWII,” Lendy said. “I feel happy because I do not need the $100, I would just use it for things that are not necessary. My grandpa thought it was nice that I donated the money.”
In addition to the school-wide R. Roger Rowe School drive, veterans are also being supported by the Rancho Santa Fe Rotary Club, Rowe teacher Harriet Joslyn and 11-year-old Grace Miller.
This year, Grace is sending her third veteran on an Honor Flight, donating $2,000 of her horse competition money that she won throughout the year. Her mother gave the extra $500 to make it complete.
Grace, a fifth grade student at Del Mar Pines School, was first inspired to raise funds for Honor Flight in 2017 after hearing that a trip had to be canceled due to a lack of funds. That year while a third grader at R. Roger Rowe, Grace and classmate Madison Stine launched a fundraising effort for Honor Flight. The patriotic pair ended up raising $2,295 and with a matching gift from Grace’s family, they donated enough to send two veterans on the May 2018 trip.
One of the veterans the girls supported was Rancho Santa Fe resident George Sousa, a Korean War veteran, who was accompanied on the trip by Halboth. Since then, Halboth and Sousa have maintained a friendship.
When Halboth and Sousa attended a Coronado screening of “Libertas” together last year, Halboth was struck that she didn’t see many younger students in the audience.
“I thought that it was important to bring more students to see this film and to bring the community together,” she said.
She had a vision to bring the film to Rancho Santa Fe as a benefit for Honor Flight and for Rice. Rowe students have played a part in the planning as Jackie Mendez’s graphic design class students used their talents to design the posters for the screening.
The Jan. 25 event begins at 11 a.m. with a meet and greet with Rice before the showing begins at 11:45 a.m. The film will be followed by the moderated panel discussion with director Mark Vizcarra, producer CJ Machado and Rice at 1:15 p.m.
Tickets for the screening are $25 and can be purchased at nj2019.eventbrite.com. All local veterans who are interested to attend the event, please call Holly Shaffner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (619) 609-1669.
Following the screening, the public is invited to the American Legion Post 416 in Encinitas for a post-screening barbecue lunch at 2:15 p.m. to meet Honor Flight San Diego, Rice and the Normandy Jump 2019 team. The barbecue is $20. American Legion Post 416 address: 210 W F St #3525, Encinitas, 92024.