In late March, two Centralia Christian School students had the honor of placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument dedicated to U.S. service members whose remains have not been identified located at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Lucy Wilcox, 14, and Asher Adams, 13, were selected out of about a dozen eighth graders at Centralia Christian School who went on a trip to the Washington, D.C., area.
The two were selected by a three-judge panel as part of an essay contest in which students wrote about what it meant to be an American.
“All of us wrote what we thought it meant to be an American and then we were chosen to lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” Lucy said.
Both of the students wrote about freedom and the importance of protecting it as Americans, tying in their studies to what they wrote.
“We studied wars and how people fought for freedom and I wanted to write this to show respect and honor them,” Asher said.
For Lucy, the central point of her essay was the importance of being “willing to fight to preserve liberty, equality and freedom, because that’s really the standard of what it means to be an American.”
The trip lasted nine days and the students visited Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Among the sites they visited were Mount Vernon, Monticello, Gettysburg, the national archives and the Smithsonian museums.
The students also had the opportunity to see the Capitol building and the Supreme Court but were unable to go inside.
Both Lucy and Asher said the trip increased their interest in American history and that they would both like to go back and visit the area again one day.
Lucy said her favorite sites they visited were Arlington Cemetery, Gettysburg and Monticello while Asher’s favorites were Williamsburg, the Marine Corps Museum and Monticello.
Asher said Williamsburg was his favorite place they went to because, “It was really cool walking around … Everything looked like it was from the 1700s.”
But both said the highlight of their trip was placing the wreath.
“An officer started coming towards us which was really intimidating because they walk so seriously,” Lucy recalled. “He said, ‘Don’t worry if you mess up, it’ll be all over YouTube and Facebook’ and that made it less scary because it showed he wasn’t so serious.”
The entire ceremony lasted about 10 minutes, though Lucy said, “It was very powerful, so it felt longer than it was … It was so beautiful.”
The essays of both students are below:
To be an American is to live for liberty, strive for equality and uphold the freedoms of all citizens. These standards call to the human heart as it yearns for peace.
To be an American is to be loyal to our liberty. Though we all fear the threat of oppression we will stand against it. Liberty is the roof of freedom, and we can only rest under its branches if we fight for its place in our lives.
To be an American is to firmly dedicate ourselves to the conviction that all men are created equal. The Declaration of Independence states that the equal rights of all people are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our country has set these equalities as a standard. In our country’s past, America has struggled to give true equality to all people. Nevertheless, the standard must remain. If we bring each other up the mountain of equality, we can all enjoy the same view standing together. And this view is worth fighting for.
To be an American is to respect the need for freedom. Freedom is the river that flows through the center of our country. We have recognized that freedom is what our people need to pursue happiness. We have the freedom to assemble, the freedom to travel, the freedom to disagree with our government, the freedom to follow our dreams and do whatever God has set before us. This is the river that we all thirst to drink from. This is the freedom worth fighting for.
Therefore as an American, we must fight. Many brave men and women of our country have sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom. They knew what it meant to be American, and that is what led them to fight for our country: to preserve our liberty, our equality and our freedom. The warriors buried at this tomb whose names are lost to time died for that reason. The act of laying the wreath at their burial place is an honor to commemorate what they went through to preserve these rights. And it would be my privilege to lay the wreath before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers who will never be forgotten.
To me, being an American is one of the greatest privileges that anyone on earth can have. As an American, I enjoy many freedoms that most people only dream of. Because of the Constitution, I feel a sense of security that my nation will defend me and my freedoms. I am proud to be an American and I am proud of what the United States of America is to the world — a light of hope and freedom.
I believe God has blessed this nation and that it is our responsibility to help and protect others. As a Christian, I take this very seriously and try to be the best person I can be by honoring God, my country, her flag, and those who lost their lives for this great nation. I do this by obeying God, my parents, and those in authority over me. As a Boy Scout, I also obey the Scout Law which requires me to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
Furthermore, I took an oath to “do my best, to do my duty to God and my country adn to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” This is what I believe the Unknown Soldier did and continues to do through our Armed Forces. I hope to someday join the military, like my dad did, so I can fulfill my oath to the Scouts and to my nation and to honor God and the Unknown Soldier through my services.
Thank you for considering me as a candidate for this great honor. I will consider laying the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as one of the greatest opportunities to thank the men and women who laid down their lives to protect my American freedoms and way of life.