Nathaniel Yokota recently returned from what he described as a life-changing experience.
The 12-year-old Gilroy resident was selected as one of seven in the United States to go to Europe this past fall with an international children’s program called Bridge to History.
The program for preteen students takes them to London, England and to the battlefields of Normandy, France for 10 days to take part in events that honor World War II veterans, and to learn about the war and D-day.
“The experiences we had in Europe changed me, and the wonderful people we met did, too,” he said.
Nathaniel said his favorite part of the trip was meeting Dominico Carchidi, an underwater demolition team diver during World War II.
Among the activities, the Bridge to History group also toured various cemeteries and visited German bunkers, and Nathaniel added he taught French school children how to use a bow and arrow.
“I learned how important it is to listen to WWII veterans because they are getting older,” he said. “Listening to them made me want to share their stories, and to meet even more veterans.”
Nathaniel’s mother Catherine said her son dreams of becoming a military historian. In August, Nathaniel, dressed in full army fatigues, attended the Spirit of ’45 WWII Living History Event at the San Jose History Park.
In March, Nathaniel will join other Bridge to History students in a trip to Toccoa, Ga., where they will climb Currahee Mountain to follow in the footsteps of World War II paratroopers.