Every year in October, the 5th grade and their parents have the wonderful opportunity to visit our Nation’s Capital. We embark on a 4-day journey to see all that we can see in D.C. After getting up in the wee hours on a Wednesday morning we arrived around 9:00 and hit the ground running. We saw so many amazing things, but there were three highlights that really stood out for us as a group.
The first was watching two of our fifth grade representatives lay a wreath to honor the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is a very strict ritual that the soldiers perform throughout the day. Our beautiful wreath was on display for an hour before it was moved to the front of the tomb. After the wreath laying we were able to talk to one of the soldiers and get the inside scoop as to how she arrived at that position. She said many men guard the tomb but that she was one of three women who have the honor, and she will guard it for at least 2 years before she is stationed somewhere else. There is a two year training process, and the majority of their practice happens in the middle of the night. She explained to the students just who they are guarding. These unknown soldiers represent all of the soldiers that are lost in battle or at sea. The tomb is constantly guarded no matter what time and what weather conditions. It was a privilege to hear her speak.
The second highlight was being able to go to the Caisson Horse stables. We were granted access to Fort Meyer and were able to meet the men and the horses. The Caisson horses are unique horses that participate in high ranking military burials at Arlington National Cemetery. These horses assist in carrying the caskets of famous military men and women. We learned that there are gray and black horses that form teams of six to carry the casket through Arlington National Cemetery. The last horse in the funeral march is a rider-less horse that has a pair of boots pointed backwards; this indicates that the warrior will never ride again. There is so much tradition with these horses and men, dating back to 1948. It was fascinating!
Finally we got to see President Obama take off in Marine One. We arrived at the White House to hear that they had a special surprise for us on the lawn. We all assumed that we would be seeing the first dog, Bo, or maybe even Michelle Obama. In our wildest dreams we never thought that we would see the President. We watched as the Secret Service rolled out the three helicopter pads. Then we witnessed the helicopters coming our way. It was quite breezy when they landed. A marine exited Marine One and ceremoniously laid down the steps for the President to enter the helicopter. After a while, the President exited the White House and walked straight to Marine One. He waved to us all. After the President was secure, selected members of his staff also joined him on the helicopter. It was so exciting! That was a once in a lifetime experience.