Christian Heritage Seniors Place Wreath At Tomb Of the Unknowns
By EMILY GUEVARA
Three Christian Heritage School students capped off their senior year with a ceremony of honor.
Maria Allen, Joseph Hughes and Dan-ielle Velie participated in a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.
The three graduated from Christian Heritage in Tyler this year after attending together for the past 14 years.
Hughes, 18, said it was an awe-inspiring moment when he and teacher Anna Bastounes laid the wreath as Miss Allen and Miss Velie watched from a few feet away.
"My heart was just beating like a drum," Hughes said, who plans to serve in the U.S. Army as an airborne ranger after college. "I couldn't help but just feel the intense honor and just the privilege it was to be there and honor those who have sacrificed so much."
The trip to the tomb was part of a weeklong tour of historic places in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Ms. Bastounes said each year the school's seniors travel to historic places.
However, past classes have not participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb. Ms. Bastounes said when she learned about the opportunity, she seized it.
Wells Fargo Advisors in Tyler paid for the wreath. It featured red and white flowers, blue ribbon and a small blue banner with "Christian Heritage School" written across it.
The wreath was placed on a stand in front of the white marble tomb, which sits on top of a hill overlooking Washington, D.C., according to the Arlington National Cemetery website.
The tomb was placed above the grave of the Unknown Soldier of World War I. Inscribed on the back of the tomb are the words, "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God."
The crypts of unknowns from World War II, Korea and Vietnam sit west of the World War I Unknown, according to the website.
The tomb is guarded 24 hours a day every day of the year in all weather conditions by the Tomb Guard sentinels, according to the website.
The sentinels, who volunteer to serve there, are considered the best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), the website reads.
Soldiers must be in top physical condition, have a flawless military record and stand between 5-foot-10 and 6-foot-4
with a proportionate weight and build, according to the website.
Soldiers must undergo an interview and two-week trial to determine whether they are ready to train as a tomb guard.
Part of their training involves learning the cemetery's history and the grave locations of almost 300 veterans. They also learn the guard-change ceremony and the manual of arms that happens during the Changing of the Guard, according to the website.
Ms. Bastounes said she teaches her students to love liberty and to appreciate those who serve in the military.
"The history of the world is the history of tyranny, and we're so blessed to be in a free nation" and have men and women who have preserved that freedom, she said. "It's just so right to be thankful and this was our expression of thanks."
In addition to Ms. Bastounes and the three students, Karen Vaughan, Hughes' mother, went on the trip as well.