In order to choose which students would actually get to lay down the wreath, Group Leader DeEtte W. had all travelers submit an essay explaining why they would like to be involved and what this unique honor would mean to them. The essays were submitted anonymously and read by three teachers and administrators, who then chose four students to participate.
One of these students was eighth-grader Jake H. In his essay, he explained that his family had a long history of military service, and that he would view this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a true honor. To make the moment even more special, Jake’s father, a U.S. Army veteran named Curtis, was able to join him on tour as a chaperone. During the ceremony, Curtis said he was overwhelmed with pride. “To see Jake represent [his school] with the other students up there and give their respects to the unknown soldiers [during the Arlington National Cemetery wreath-laying ceremony] was obviously very touching.”
Jake was also deeply impacted by the experience. As he explained, he was thinking about his dad and family members who served, but he also recognized the importance of acknowledging why the memorial exists. “I was just thinking about how it would be to be unknown,” Jake said. Curtis continued, “[The memorial’s] not for me, it’s not for my grandpa or anyone else in the family. It’s for the soldiers who didn’t come back.”