The Korean War Veterans Memorial is probably my favorite memorial. I take the opportunity to explain some interesting facts about this memorial to the students near me. There are 19 servicemen from multiple branches of the military walking through the bogs. They are reflected on a polished granite wall of photos.
The 19 men and their reflections represent the 38th parallel, the dividing line of North and South Korea. I, also, asked them to walk around the memorial and stop periodically. Once stopped, look at the soldiers. There is not one point on that triangle that you can stop without having at least one pair of eyes looking back at you. This is reflective of the environment that soldiers face and that you must trust your friends and keep your eyes open.
The Lincoln Memorial is the next stop on the walk. This massive structure is inspiring to look at. Everyone pretends to be Rocky as they climb the stairs to the building.
Once inside the monument, there is plenty for the students to read. Right! We have to tell them there is a spelling error on one of the stone tablets, but you have to read them to find it. This is of course true, but the goal is to get them to read the inscriptions. The error is in the pictures. I bet they wished they had white out or something when the carved it.
We now make our way down the path to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The student have the opportunity to look for some names of soldiers from the Milwaukee area and create pencil rubbings of their assigned name from the wall. This is a simple but moving memorial.
After the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, we continue our somber tour to the Holocaust Museum. The students get to walk through the Daniel’s Story exhbit and learn about this young man’s experience through the concentration camps. Out of respect I will not post any pictures from this memorial.
Finally, a high note, quite literally. Our last stop for the day is the National Air and Space Museum. We let the kids go off and explore some of the interesting facts and history of flight. This is a great way to get a little excitement back in them as we head into the last day of the trip.
Mount Vernon and the Capital building await us on the last day.
The students are loaded onto the bus to leave Arlington. We will make a stop at the Marine Corps War Memorial before heading to the Pentagon.
The Marine Corps War Memorial is depicting the flag raising on Iwo Jima. As we arrive at the memorial, the students are lucky enough to see and interact with some brave marines that are practicing formation for a ceremony at the memorial. Many of the kids are awed at the sight and remain locked in a gaze for some time watching the routine. The honor guard breaks up and the practice is over.
The bus heads toward the Pentagon and parks in front of the mall. The students are immediately away of their surroundings and there is buzz on the bus. We unload and make the one mile walk to the Pentagon memorial. The kids learn that the benches are placed for the direction of where the victim was located. If the name is read and you are viewing the Pentagon building, the victim was in the Pentagon. If you can read the name and see the sky, the victim was on the plane. The students are a little disappointed that they cannot take many pictures, as pictures of the Pentagon building are prohibited.
It is time for a break and we have made our way back to the mall for lunch. The kids are far more excited than the adults. It will be short lived excitement as we board the bus for some more walking. You can almost hear the collective “UGGHHHH!
Morning arrives and many of the students did not get enough sleep. One group overslept and we had to have the hotel engineer forcibly open the door to wake them.
Now that everyone is awake and fed, we head into the city for our first stop of the day.
Arlington National Cemetery is the place to take these kids and help them understand that Freedom is not Free. We learn along the walk to the mansion that this property has some interesting history. Belonging to both the Lee and Washington families at different times. Civil War soldiers for the Union are buried on the property in spite of General Lee.
We make our way to view the JFK memorial and observe the eternal flame. This is a place for reverence and respect. Continuing along, we hear the gun salute for a funeral in progress. There are 20-30 funerals that take place on the property every weekday.
The mansion tour is brief, but the students learn that the Lee family regains control of the property from the government only to sell it back to the them. Our next stop at Arlington is probably one of the most moving ceremonies to witness, the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We have a birds eye view of the new guard making his way to his post. Changing of the Guard
The servicemen are a special unit of the Army that is responsible for conducting ceremonies at Arlington and for the President. These brave men and women have been guarding the Tomb every minute of every day, regardless of weather conditions, since 1948 when they were commissioned.
The 8th grade infiltration has begun. We have arrived in Washington, DC. We have worked out the schedule to get the most important stop of the trip completed first.
Joe’s Souvenir Shop is about to be overwhelmed. Seriously, with that out of the way, it is now time to take in the awesome history. The bus makes a brief stop at the World War II memorial.
The students are able to take in the division between to the two active theatres of the conflict and locate the Wisconsin pillar. The time is short, so we load the bus and move on to the Martin Luther King Memorial.
This is where the walking part begins. Our tour guide gives a speech that is far too long and far too opinionated, but we eventually walk through the memorial. The massive stone sculpture is impressive. Quickly on to the next memorial.
A brief walk around the Potomac flood basin to the FDR memorial. The students are more engaged in this memorial and observing all the ways in which FDR is depicted throughout his terms.
The memorial is broken into four sections, or rooms. One for each of his presidential terms. The first “room” introduces his presidency. The bronze structures depict the “New Deal”, and the fireside chats that FDR started on the radio. As we progress, we learn about the Great Depression, follow by the building of industry, the end of World War II, culminating with his funeral.
We now continue around basin further to the Jefferson Memorial. The students are greeted with spectacular architecture and many inspirational quotes. We allow them some free time to explore on their own and learn some exciting new information about this founding father.
We finally stop walking and head to dinner to close the evening.
The 15-hour journey has ended with our first stop in Gettysburg, PA. After some breakfast we make our way to the visitor center for a tour of the Gettysburg museum followed by short video. When the video ends we are ushered to the upper floor of the museum for a light and sound show on a 42 foot tall and 377 foot circumference cyclorama. This is largest oil painting in the United States. The painting is 133 years old and depicts Pickett’s charge of Confederate soldiers through the battlefields of Gettysburg to try and put a fateful blow to the Union army in the Civil War.
A brief stop in the gift shop and then we load the bus for a tour of the battlefield. The first stop in the battlefield, we are introduced the Iron Brigade, which includes the 2nd Wisconsin Regiment and the 7th Wisconsin Regiment. The Iron Brigade was known as the toughest infantry in the Union Army and they had distinct hats to prove it. The Wisconsin infantry were among the first troops to engage the Confederate Army in Gettysburg.
A few more key battlefield stops until we view the place where the battle ended along Seminary Ridge. We learn that, yet another Wisconsin soldier, is proving heroic. Alonso Cushing is young infantryman manning a cannon. With 1 ½ hours of experience he takes 3 significant wounds and, with his men, moves a cannon into position by hand to take on General Lee’s men that are charging across the fields.
We board the bus for D.C.
The Pilgrimage Begins
Today begins the almost 16-hour journey, for three weary adults and 26 eager 8th grade students, to nation’s capital. For many of these 8th graders, at Greenfield Bilingual School in Milwaukee, WI, this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Each year is fun and exciting. Watching the kids marvel at the monuments, interact with the veterans, and generally show the pride that America and the Capital bring to them. This is an opportunity to put aside family issues, politics, and concerns in the neighborhood, and enjoy the sites that have been built for every American.
Many of the students that venture with us have never been away from their parents and some have never been away from home. This trip allows them to explore and take in those things that they enjoy and learn some new history as we go.
The itinerary is a little different every year, but we make an effort to keep some important sites on the list. Gettysburg, Mount Vernon, the U.S. Capitol building. The walking tour of monuments is awe inspiring, Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson. The most impact that these young minds have is not even aware to them until they see them. The war memorials and Arlington Cemetery always spark the most conversation.
We leave the school at 4:00pm for the easterly trip. Our first destination is 15 hours away, Gettysburg, PA. The students have been learning U.S. History and the Civil War is fresh in their minds.