Recently, Memorial Day took on a whole new meaning for a group of 31 Suttons Bay seventh and eighth grade students, while they were on a May 15-19 educational tour of Washington, D.C.
The students visited several museums, memorials and Washington landmarks, as well as the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stoystown, Pa. But the biggest impression came at the World War II Memorial when four “Honors Flight” buses pulled up just as the students were leaving.
The students had learned that America is losing World War II veterans at a rate of about 800 a day. The “Honors Flight’ they encountered was created to transport veterans and their companions or aides from anywhere in the nation to Washington to visit the memorial erected to recognize their sacrifice.
Instead of rushing toward the buses waiting to take them to the panda exhibit at the National Zoo, the students paused, spontaneously applauded and began shaking the hands of the arriving veterans and thanking them. The veterans, who didn’t expect to be greeted by smiling students in bright blue T-shirts, were surprised and humbled by the gesture. The students then formed a line to more methodically greet every veteran and shake each hand.
“The community has much to be proud of in the respectful way the students behaved,” said Cindy Crandall, a Suttons Bay teacher and director of the bi-annual event funded entirely by the students and their families. “But the lucky ones were the students and chaperones who received the added reminder of what and whom the memorial represents. It didn’t matter whether it was the Vietnam Wall, the Korean War Memorial or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, students and chaperones were reminded that our freedoms are not free.”
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