Four eighth grade Miami Trace Middle School students will take part in a special ceremony on Tuesday during a class trip to Washington D.C.
Aiden Johnson, Jesse Bryant, Alayna Baughn and Madison Williams learned recently the four of them will help to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during an annual trip the middle school eighth grade class will take next week to Washington D.C. According to these students and their eighth grade history teacher Melanie Cockerill, this rare opportunity will occur when over 100 students from the school will travel for a four-day trip to Philadelphia and the nation’s capital starting Monday. This is the eighth year students at Miami Trace Middle School have had an opportunity to go on this trip.
Cockerill said during an interview on Wednesday that after teaching the kids about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and assigning an essay, the four were chosen to participate in the ceremony because of their desire — expressed in their writing — to honor soldiers. Cockerill said the process started with assigning each student with a number, and separating the pile into girls and boys to keep each essay anonymous. Another teacher at the school then read each and picked two girls and two boys to participate in the ceremony in Washington D.C.
“It is definitely who wants to do it the most,” Cockerill said. “They all were really good. For the essay we asked the kids why they wanted to do it, if they had anyone in the military that means something to them and so on. So many of them, we had 33 kids write an essay, a lot of them had grandparents or brothers that served so it meant a lot to them. Our travel company, Prodigy Student Travel, set it all up. We saw the ceremony of the wreath laying occur in a past trip but we were told it takes about a year to set up in order to even think about doing it. So each year when we leave, our travel company will put us down again next year.”
The Record-Herald had an opportunity to talk with the four students picked to lay the wreath. The students explained what they wrote about in their essay, and each had a reason for wanting to participate, with the main underlying reason being to honor the soldiers who sacrifice so much for the country.
Baughn, the daughter of Tyler and Jeni Baughn, participates in track and softball at the middle school.
“I wrote about why it is a once in a lifetime opportunity and why it is so special,” Baughn said. “And how I won’t be able to personally honor each soldier that has fallen in war, so this is a big thing we can do to honor all of the soldiers. Honoring soldiers is important to me.”
Johnson, the son of James and Carrie Johnson, is a wrestler, a member of the football team, a member of the baseball team, and has a brother who is currently serving in the military.
“(I wrote about) my brother,” Johnson said. “He is in the army and is in South Korea. This is a good way I can honor him and all of the other soldiers. Being in the army is basically a tradition in my family. Great grandparents, uncle, grandparents, my brother, they all were in the military.”
Bryant, the son of John and LaRisa Bryant, participates in band at Miami Trace Middle School.
“I also wrote about how this is such an important opportunity,” Bryant said. “My grandparents fought in the army and I think it’s important to honor all soldiers.”
Finally, Williams, the daughter of Bradley and Somer Williams, is a cheerleader and is a member of both the choir and band at the middle school.
“My grandpa, he fought in Vietnam and he was in the army,” Williams said. “I just wrote about how it is important, and how our soldiers are very underpaid and how they are neglected when it comes to what they do. I think a lot of Americans just complain about life when these brave people put their lives on the line everyday, and people just want to complain about the little things in life.”
The students all expressed an interest in seeing the sights on the trip, including the Holocaust Museum, the White House, the Flight 93 crash site in Pennsylvania and the Lincoln Memorial.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.