RU sophomore to christen Bell of Peace and Freedom at D-Day 70th events in France

Sperry Grills at the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va.

As an ambassador to the future, RU's Sperry Grills will represent the United States at the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and liberation of Europe during World War II.

When the world gathers on June 6, 2014, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Sperry Grills, a sophomore pre-nursing major from Bedford, will represent the United States and her generation in Bayeux, France.

Selected as one of nine young christeners from different nationalities in whose presence the Bell of Peace and Freedom will be blessed, Grills will have her name engraved on the 1,100-kilogram brass peal bell. The bell will be hung in the heart of the historic Bayeux Cathedral to commemorate the liberation of France and Europe in 1944-1945.

"I am kind of young to be a god-parent, even of a bell, I guess, but that is what they are calling me," she said. "As a representative of the younger generation, I am proud to help share the stories of the veterans, their families and the victims of that important event that changed the world."

Grills, is a member of the Bedford International Alliance, a collaboration between the Bedford community and citizens of England and France devoted to sustaining the D-Day and Normandy invasion legacy. Her upcoming trip will be her fourth to Europe as part of the group and one which she is eagerly anticipating.

Sperry Grills at the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va.

"I truly appreciate the courage and fortitude of the many veterans whom I have met and the people of Normandy who are so hospitable and lavish us with kindness," said Grills, who participated in a ceremony there in 2002 to dedicate Ave. de Bedford in honor of the Bedford Boys, or members of the U.S. Army 29th Division, who were part of the initial assault on Omaha Beach.

"I really hope to make a difference by helping keep the history alive and sharing it with my generation," she said. "D-Day happened only 70 years ago and I want to do what I can to avoid a repetition of World War II."

Grills, who is working towards admission to RU's competitive nursing program, hopes to continue her family's tradition of caring. Her passion to care for others, she said, has been whetted by several family members who are nurses and life as a farm girl which meant caring for the family livestock.

"The international travel and experience has given me an appetite to go and help others," said Grills, who marvels at the suffering that must have occurred 70 years ago on the beaches and countryside of the Normandy that she has come to know. "History is powerful and it still speaks to us."

Feb 11, 2014