The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most sacred areas of Washington D.C.
Last week, some Brandon Valley High School students got a rare opportunity, not only did they get a chance to witness the military sentinels guard the tomb, but they were also chosen to place a wreath on top of it.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any type of weather.
Last Monday, Coral Gonseth and Mariana Lawrence and two others from Brandon Valley High got to place a wreath on the tomb.
“I thought it was very moving and touching, just because even the outside feel, it was raining and it kind of just brought the whole mood together for me,” Gonseth said.
Lawrence says she was a bit intimidated at first.
“Just staring at the tomb and placing the wreath it was heart touching,” Lawrence said.
“This is our 10th year of doing this, we have an application process when they’re going in from 7th to 8th grade; they apply and we go through them and they get accepted and in the summer of their 8th grade going into their 9th grade year we provide them this opportunity and head out to D.C. for four or five days,” teacher Nick Skibsted said.
The students were impressed with the guards who march 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turn, face east for 21 seconds, turn and face north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeat the process.
“I thought it was really cool that the guards protect it all the time, the guy we talked to said they got the option one time to go home during a hurricane and they even stayed there then I just thought it was really cool that they thought it was there duty and it’s very honorable,” Gonseth said.
“How precise they are and how everything is so perfect like their 21 steps and how everything is so laid out,” Lawrence said.
The two were selected by their teachers through a process.
“We have them write an essay, if they want to be a part of that, and we select four of them through the essay we have them do; it’s always a great honor and a cool thing for them to do,” Skibsted said.
The theme of the essays they had to write was what does the phrase ‘Freedom isn’t Free’ mean to them.
The Brandon Valley students also got a chance to visit and take pictures with South Dakota’s Congressional delegation on the steps of the Capitol.