Troup student to unveil WWII video

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, March 21, 2019

Evelyn Johnson has a story to tell. On Thursday, March 28, the Troup County High School senior will debut her documentary on World War II at the Troup High School Auditorium. The documentary focuses specifically on Johnson’s experience in Normandy, France, visiting such historically significant locations as Utah and Omaha Beach, as well as her journey tracking the life of Private Garnie L. Grizzle of Union County, Georgia. Grizzle, one of approximately 2,500 American soldiers who perished on D-Day, is buried in the Normandy American Cemetery, located a short drive from the beaches where Grizzle lost his life in 1944. 

“I want people to have a new sense of gratitude for that generation and the sacrifices they made,” Johnson said, discussing her reasoning for creating the film. “I think we’ve lost that in the pages of the textbooks. We learn about it now, but we have lost a sense of the depth of the sacrifice that was made. I want that sense of gratitude to be renewed.”

Johnson was given the chance to travel to Normandy as a result of her time spent in the Albert H. Small Normandy Institute. The institute acts as a year-long program for a select few student/teacher pairs from around the country to participate in and culminates in a trip to Washington, D.C. as well as Normandy. The program is designed to be completed by a student and a teacher and includes an in-depth study on an individual soldier from their geographic area, but the program only accepts a small number of pairs each year. 

Johnson asked one of her former teachers, Clinton DeMooney, to apply for the program alongside her during the summer before her junior year, and the pair was one of 13 accepted from more than 200 applicants from across the country.

“It’s an incredibly in-depth study during the school year,” DeMooney said. “Out of 200-something candidates, we were one of the 13 pairs to be picked. We had readings to work through, tasks to complete and group discussions to take part in. On top of all that, we were doing our research on our soldier that we were going to be visiting in Normandy. It was a very robust program.” 

Upon completion of the program, Johnson and DeMooney traveled to Normandy with the other student/teacher pairs for the opportunity of a lifetime.

“I got to see the places you only read about in textbooks,” Johnson said. “Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc — I got to see the hill where my soldier fell. There’s nothing quite like standing there. It took my breath away.” 

On the trip, the class visited the graves of the soldiers they had researched and delivered eulogies next to their graves. 

“That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but also one of the proudest moments of my entire life,” Johnson said. “Standing and looking at his gravesite, looking to the left and right, there is just a sea of marble as far as you can see. I can’t even describe the amount of gratitude I felt, and I knew I needed to carry that home with me.” 

The program tasked the participants with delivering two presentations upon their return home, to instill this sense of gratitude into others. Johnson and DeMooney delivered one presentation in Columbus, but for the second, Johnson wanted to do something different, which is how the idea for the documentary came to be.

“I thought it was a great idea,” DeMooney said of the documentary. “She’s such a creative individual. She’s able to do all of this not because of me, this is really all her. She’s a spectacular student. I’m proud of her, but it’s not because of anything I did for her. I just participated with her.”

Johnson started working on the documentary in November of last year, and now that she is ready to show the community, she hopes to leave those who watch with the same gratitude and understanding of sacrifice that she was left with. 

The documentary will air at 7 p.m. on March 28 and will last approximately 30 minutes. After the documentary airs, there will be a panel discussion with individuals from the community who helped Johnson with her research taking part to answer questions and give feedback. 

After graduation, Johnson plans to attend Mercer University and study medicine. She plans to minor in history.