National Park Trust and Wreaths Across America (WAA) worked together this year to teach a new generation the importance of our nation’s memorials. Students from West Education Campus (DC) assisted Gold and Blue Star families with laying 140 wreaths on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Friday, December 14, 2018. In the process, students formed emotional connections with the families they helped, understanding their loss, and learning their stories.
Based in Maine, Wreaths Across America’s mission is to “Remember – Honor – Teach”. Buddy Bison Students learned about the WAA mission and our memorials prior to the moving ceremony, but none of them anticipated how much more they would learn by meeting the families of our fallen soldiers.
“It was so powerful. We told the students what they would be doing and why it was important, but as they spoke with the families and joined them in saluting the engraved names, it really impacted the students. I couldn’t have taught them the emotion they felt first hand,” stated Heimy Salgado, teacher at West Education Campus.
One wreath was laid at each of the 140 panels of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by a Gold or Blue Star family member along with a student and a Maine Sheriffs Association officer (the Maine Sheriffs Association has worked with WAA since they began bringing wreaths to Washington, DC). The slow procession of the wreath-layings allowed time for each family to share stories about their loved ones honored at the memorial, and for their name to be read allowed and saluted by the Maine Sheriffs. One student, Carl, asked the Maine Sheriff officer what was the meaning behind this gesture. She graciously explained that is was a sign of respect then showed him step-by-step how to properly salute.
After the event, many students went home to research the names they had read, learning about who they were and where they were from. They also were eager to share stories with their classmates about the families they met and the soldiers they learned about.
“I was sad to see so many names on the Vietnam Memorial but I learned how each one of them sacrificed their lives for us. I won’t ever forget this experience,” said 5th grade student Talita.
Darren, a 4th grade student explained that “this was an emotional experience and it allowed me to connect with all the veterans and their family members.”
“I didn’t expect to connect to the family so fast. As we saluted his son’s name, I could feel what he felt. I know now the sacrifice they made,” said Gabriel, a 4th grader after laying a wreath with a Gold Star father.
National Park Trust and West Education Campus were honored to assist Wreaths Across America with this ceremony. Together we are teaching our children to remember the important sacrifice of our nation’s veterans and military families.
For more information on this event see our press release.