American History 101.5

Part 5 of “My Life with Eighth Graders.” To read parts 1-4, Click HERE.

After our visit to the Iwo Jima Memorial, we made our way west across the Potomac to Virginia, and the former Custis Estate, now known as Arlington National Cemetery. Our visit was made even more special because four students from our group would take part in the wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Wreath Laying Ceremony

The wreath presented on behalf of Mariners Christian School

I’d been to Arlington a few times before, and knew our students would witness a type of ceremony we don’t often see: one involving silent, somber reflection. Most modern public events seem designed to be loud and boisterous, often demanding audience participation. Even sporting events have acquired show elements unheard of twenty years ago. The moment a time-out is called, out come the Jumbotron highlights, T-shirt cannons and slam dunking mascots, each designed to captivate our attention until play is once again underway.

But, fortunately, sane heads continue to prevail at Arlington, where mobs of people shouting “you da man” are not welcome. Perhaps that’s a large part of the beauty of a National Cemetery: it truly is a place where you can pay your respects. If you’ve never witnessed the changing of the guard (volunteer sentinels from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Old Guard) at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, you have missed a ceremony steeped in dignity and honor.

Wreath Laying Ceremony Students

Each student was asked to write an essay about the ceremony prior to the trip. The students selected to represent MCS at the wreath ceremony produced the top four essays.

Following the ceremony, we re-grouped in the Memorial Ampitheater (dedicated on May 15, 1920) to learn more about the history of Arlington and some of the famous men and women interred there.

Don Cole addresses the students in Memorial Ampitheater

Headmaster Don Cole addresses the MCS students in the Memorial Ampitheater. Uber chaperone Paul Wolfe holds some student coats in the right foreground, while ace photographer Mitch Vance peers around the stage in the far background, long lens at the ready.

After the Tomb ceremony, we visited several group memorials, such as those dedicated to the crews of the battleship Maine (from WWI) and the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia. We also visited the graves of President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Senator Robert Kennedy.

Not far from the Memorial Ampitheater, I snuck away from the group for a moment to snap a photo of Audie Murphy’s gravesite. Murphy was the most decorated American combat soldier from WWII.

Audie Murphy’s Headstone

A traditional Arlington headstone marks the grave of Major Audie Murphy

Next: More Monuments and Memorials, plus a Ford and a Lincoln. For Part 6, click HERE.

craig hodgkins

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~ by Craig Hodgkins on November 7, 2007.

2 Responses to “American History 101.5”

  1. Thank you for giving these kids an appreciation of our soldier heroes,especially Audie Murphy.He was used but not helped by the military w/his PTSD and was one of the first soldiers to speak out about it.Now years later our government is finally doing something thanks to Pres. Bush. God Bleass Audie and all the brave men & women in the service,past and present.

  2. One thing that struck me after this recent visit to Arlington was that Audie Murphy was my age when he died tragically in that plane crash. Certainly helped put his life — and his sacrifice — in perspective. Thanks for your comments, and for stopping by.

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