Earlier this month, four Neuse Charter School students placed a wreath of at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On hand to watch them were more than 100 fellow students and parents
Dakota Williams, Jane Ivey Johnson, Kadin Henningham and Ella Rozier presented the wreath shortly before the changing of the guard around 4 p.m. on Nov. 4. Neuse Charter chose the students after an essay contest.
Sixth-grade teacher Marjorie Harris, organizer of the yearly field trip to Washginton, D.C., said the school asked students to write what the following Barack Obama quote meant to them: “We, the people, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals and those who died in their defense.”
Williams, 11, wrote that “patriotism inspires and unites people; it gives them a sense of pride and helps bring people together.” Her essay noted that “freedom is a right and a responsibility.”
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Henningham said the quote means: “We can’t have freedom unless we have commitment. We can’t have a world with freedom if we don’t have love, charity, duty, patriotism and commitment. We should not ask ‘What’s in it for me?’ ”
The school notified the four winners in early October and gave specific instructions on their duties, demeanor and attire for the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. A school assembly announced the winning essays and allowed fellow students to hear a few lines from each.
Harris said last year’s class was able to witness the changing of the guard but not take part in the wreath-laying event. She wanted to ensure this year’s class got that opportunity.
“We applied in April to participate in the ceremony this year,” Harris said.
Harris said she wanted students to gain an appreciation for the people and sacrifices that helped form this nation. “When our students view the Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther King Jr. Monument, Vietnam War Memorial and White House, I want them to reflect on the significance of each to our nation’s history,” she said. “While at Arlington Cemetery, I want our students to quietly observe each grave we pass and think of the sacrifice that each person made for our freedom.”
Henningham said he was nervous and humbled as he placed the wreath. “It was intense to place the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier knowing I might do something wrong and watching the guard talk to us with a stern voice,” said the 11-year-old. “I was honored because I knew that out of the entire sixth-grade class, I was one of the four people to place the wreath on the tomb. DC was a great experience.”