Almost 100 P.E.I. students will join tens of thousands of Canadian youth for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge on Sunday.
A group of students from Three Oaks, Kinkora and Kensington high schools left Tuesday, one of many school tours from across Canada organized for the historic event. Students and teachers from Bluefield and Morell High Schools are also taking part.
"I wanted to be part of it because I take interest in our military and I think it's good to pay respect to why we're free today," said Braden Rogerson, a Grade 11 student at Three Oaks in Summerside, P.E.I.
'Really personal level'
Rogerson also has a personal connection to Vimy.
"My great great great uncle, Richard Garfield Rogerson, is buried in a cemetery near Vimy and I'm hoping to see his grave," he explained.
"It would help me connect to this trip on a really personal level, being able to see someone that I'm directly related to, who fought for my country."
Rogerson is 16, just a few years younger than some of the Canadian soldiers who died at Vimy.
"Unbelievable, I could never see myself going over and putting my life on the line," said Rogerson.
"It's going to be a tragic day, seeing and hearing about everything that happened but it will also show me and everyone that will be there what us Canadians can do when we come together."
Letters of thanks
The students have also written letters to soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge and are buried at one of the nearby cemeteries, and they will place the letters on the graves.
"I mainly thanked him and expressed my gratitude for his sacrifice," said Kiley Kitts, also from Three Oaks.
Kitts predicts it's going to be an emotional journey.
"To not only see everything that happened but we're also going to be experiencing it, in their footsteps, so it's going to be very very powerful."
Grade 11 student Charlotte Armstrong will be travelling to France as part of a delegation of students through The Vimy Foundation.
"I have two great great uncles who fought in the war and it's always been really meaningful to me and it's a really meaningful battle to Canadians as well so I wanted to be a part of that," explained Armstrong.
At 16, she especially admires one of her relatives who was just 17 when he went to fight in the First World War.
"I think it was so brave of him," said Armstrong.
"He left behind everything he had ever known to fight an enemy he had never met and that just takes so much courage."
Armstrong also expects the day of the Vimy Anniversary to be an emotional one.
"It will be so so incredible, I will probably be crying so I'm bringing a lot of Kleenex," she said.
"Because I'm just so proud of the contributions that Canadians made to the battle."