BY MELANIE WADE –
Visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C. is one of the most reverent and somber occasions one can attend, and for one Polk County student, that occasion turned into something much bigger. Gaitlynn Brady, a member of UA-Rich Mountain’s Upward Bound Program, actually took part in a ceremony in which she was able to place a wreath representing UARM at the Tomb. “It was very surreal,” said Brady.
She admitted to being shocked when she was picked for the once-in-a-lifetime honor. Upward Bound had planned their trip to D.C. as a part of their summer academy enrichment program and the group of 30 students was chosen to place the wreath, but only one student could take part in the ceremony. To choose who that student would be, the program held an essay contest. “I had to write an essay on what the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier means to me, what the tomb represents, and how I feel about it,” she explained. “It was very shocking when I first heard I was picked. There were a lot of smart people that did it and it was a really special moment.”
Brady said she was “very nervous,” but that the soldiers help her to stay at ease. One described the ceremony and
showed her a chart of where to go. “Two congressmen went before me and that helped,” she laughed. “When I got to the top of the stairs, the soldier was very nice and polite and he helped me through it.”
Upward Bound had many “eventful days” according to Brady, who said they saw many of the memorials and museums in the nation’s capital. They also met Arkansas’ own Congressman Bruce Westerman and listened in on a legislative session as well.
But for Brady, the ceremony she took part in at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier takes the cake. “Words cannot describe it. It’s something that changes your perspective.”
Below is Gaitlynn Bailey’s essay:
June 23, 2017
More than a tomb, and more than a man’s last resting place. This burial or an unknown hero from early 1900’s is a place where families of unidentified fallen loved ones can receive peace. Where America can show recognition for the brave men and women of America for their courage through some of America tough times.
To lay a wreath on the tomb, although just a simple circle of flowers, is such an honorable opportunity. For students like me who come from a town with just a school, a few churches, an E-Z Mart, and a small Dollar General just being able to visit the nation’s capital is such an amazing chance to experience new scenery and culture. On top of that to possibly be able to represent nationwide in a ceremony of remembering the lost lives of the unknown of the unknown would be a life changer. Not only are we remembering the fallen, but we are remembering the living in a way that reminds us not to get caught up in our “first world problems”. In a way we are not just celebrating the unfortunate ones who were unable to receive a nameplate or stone in remembrance of their lives, we are celebrating the lives we have today because of these brave men and women who sacrificed their own for ours, who sacrificed their own identity so we can keep ours. A great opportunity it is, very much a privilege and an honor to express gratitude for these fallen heroes. The ceremony of placing a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a great way to show appreciation for the brave and selfless men and women of America.
In conclusion, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier represents more than just an unknown man’s resting place, it is a place where America can remember all of the impressionable lives lost to keep ours safe. Unidentified lives, yet not forgotten.