Danville students lay wreath at Tomb of Unknown Soldier
By Wes Tomlinson
Danville Middle School seventh grader Chaseton Allen said he will never forget the moment he laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery, and he’ll never forget the sacrifice of the soldiers he honored.
“I think it’s important there is a wreath-laying ceremony to remember these soldiers because they died in a war and we don’t even know who they are,” Allen said.
Danville Middle teacher Matt Brewer has been teaching his students about government and how laws are passed, so he took 30 of them to Washington, D.C., where four of them received the opportunity to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Brewer said he thought the Washington, D.C., trip would give his students the opportunity to understand democracy in a broader sense.
“Just for them to be able to see what we’ve been talking about in class and experience that,” Brewer said. “We’ve been talking about how government works from August through December and so this trip was to give them hands-on experience.”
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is dedicated to U.S. service members who died in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and whose remains have not been identified.
Brewer said they were the second of two schools to participate in the wreath-laying ceremony May 1.
“Our wreath stayed up there for most of the day,” Brewer said.
Seventh grader Kady Brown also participated in the wreath-laying ceremony. She said she felt anxious at first after seeing the military presence near the tomb but was excited to be involved.
The students also visited the tombs of former President John F. Kennedy and of Army Staff Sgt. Thaddeus Scott Montgomery II, a Decatur High graduate who died in Afghanistan in 2010.
They also visited the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and Mount Vernon.
“My favorite place to visit was the Lincoln Memorial,” Brown said. “I just think it’s real cool how there’s this huge statue of (Abraham Lincoln).”
In November, Brewer’s students formed their own legislative body, called the Student Government Association, and worked to have a bill passed in their school.
“We divided the class into two groups; some of them were the House of Representatives and some of them were the Senate,” Brewer said. “They presented the bill to the principal and she signed it. By going to (Washington D.C.), they were able to see firsthand what we’ve been talking about in class.”