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J.A. Garfield Students Visit Capitol Hill

Garrettsville – This past week the sixth graders at James A. Garfield (JAG) Intermediate School had the opportunity to discover our nation’s heritage first-hand as they toured Washington D.C. The highlights of the trip were the National Cathedral, Arlington National Cemetery, memorials, monuments, and Mount Vernon. This was a trip that many of them will remember forever and for some of them it may be the only time they get to walk through the pages of history at our nation’s capital.  The National Cathedral was the first stop and it wowed the students with its 215 stained glass windows that depicted biblical stories as well as secular ones, gothic architecture, tapestries, sculptures, bells of the carillon, along with Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan’s crypt and so much more. The Cathedral left them standing in amazement, especially when they learned that the building took 83 years to complete because of the war, which made the cathedral the longest construction project in our nation’s history.They then moved on to Arlington Cemetery which was a somber affair as the students viewed the graves of the Kennedys then watched in wonder at the changing of the gueard and soldiers placing flags at every grave stone in the cemetery.  They learned why the grave stones of the Confederate soldiers had pointed tops verses flat-topped stones that the Union soldiers had. The cemetery gave the students a new perspective on why we celebrate Memorial Day.Late in the evening, the students had the opportunity to view the Jefferson and the Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Memorials.  The Jefferson Memorial was a memorial dedicated to Thomas Jefferson and was a sight to behold as one walked around the tidal basin to approach the spectacular monument. The boys and girls stood in awe at the large statue, the enormous pillars and the writings of Jefferson. The FDR Memorial was a group of four memorials with each containing a water feature. The water features depicted the four terms Roosevelt served and they ranged from raging waters during the tumultuous times of his term to the quiet still waters depicting his death when he was at peace. The memorial had several statues of Roosevelt on display as well.Early Friday morning the students headed out to see other monuments and memorials. The tour guide explained how the Korean War Memorial was designed to depict soldiers in a rice paddy in Korea. On a wall behind the scene were actual pictures from the war engraved in the wall, truly a sight to behold. The guide explained to the students that the radio man would be the enemy’s first target.  He went on to explain that by eliminating the radio man they shut down communication, crippling the army’s plan of attack. The Vietnam Wall was another somber place the students visited. When approaching the wall the students were told the history behind the memorial as well as how the men and women who came home from the war were welcomed with protests rather than parades and appreciation that we see today when soldiers return from war. The students who had family members killed in action took the time to make an etching of the name from the wall.  The tour took the class of 2017 through the Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial along with Iwo Jima, the Air and Space Smithsonian and the Natural History Museum. After a quick tour of Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, the students headed for home. The fast paced trip was just a snippet of what Washington D.C has to see and learn about. The kids were able to see the lessons from their history books come to life, leaving them with a greater desire to learn more about our history and a new perspective on our military. We boarded the buses and headed for home, leaving me to reflect on the two-day excursion. For many of the adults the highlight of the trip was watching student’s faces as the history on our nation began to unfold for them.  The excitement, the reverence, and the ahh ha!  moments were a priceless memory that I, for one, will never forget seeing. The chatter on the bus ride home left me to surmise that everyone seemed to enjoy the outdoor classroom experience. It has left  the students and chaperones with memories from a trip that will be forever etched in their minds like the names on the Vietnam Wall.

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