Trip to D.C. proves emotional for students, parents
An annual trip to Washington, D.C., over Labor Day weekend turned emotional for a group of De Soto USD 232 students, parents and teachers and onlookers.
The group, consisting of 31 students from Monticello Trails and Mill Creek middle schools and Mill Valley High School, unfurled a 50-foot flag in front of the original Star Spangled Banner in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The spectacle resulted in an overflow of patriotic pride for both the participants and onlookers.
The emotional impact of this year’s trip began back in 2008 when Carly Granato and Jill Applegate took on the task of recreating the original Star-Spangled Banner for Keil Hileman’s Museum Connections class. Heilman, who teaches history at Monticello Trails, annually organizes the four-day trip that is jam-packed with visits to museums and national monuments.
“We wanted to do something big,” said Carly, now a sophomore at MVHS. “We wanted everyone to be involved in it.”
Big was an understatement. The girls recreated the blue section of the flag, taking up the entire basement of one of their homes.
The remaining red and white portion of the flag was completed one Saturday that semester at Monticello Trails.
“I didn’t think they would be able to finish the flag,” Hileman said. “But kids started bringing in material. Then they showed up to help that Saturday.”
Although Carly and Jill traveled on Hileman’s 2007 trip to Washington, their flag had not even been conceived as an idea. The flag made its inaugural trip to the nation’s capital in 2008, when students showed it off at several national landmarks.
This year, the USD 232 travelers decided to unfurl the flag in front of the original Star-Spangled Banner — the flag that flew over Fort McHenry, Md., during the war of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write what has become the national anthem.
About 300 or more people watched the group display the flag, many letting their children help in the process.
Shanna Christopher and her children, eighth-grader Brayson and sophomore Lindsey, were among those from USD 232 who took the trip this year.
“It was simply amazing,” Lindsey said of unfurling the replica flag in the Smithsonian. “It was shocking to know so many people took that much pride in their country.”
“It was very moving,” Shanna added. “The parents took pictures from above and people were getting emotional.”
This was the second year Brayson took the trip to Washington, D.C., with the flag.
“We took it everywhere,” he said of the previous trip. “We took pictures of it at the World War II Memorial next to the Kansas pillar, Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery.”
Hileman said the plan was to only take the flag on the one trip, but when the opportunity came about to open it in front of the original, he simply couldn’t pass it up.
“When you have a flag made by students you might think it were sloppy, but the power of what it looked like when it was opened up, there was a veteran who cried the whole time and helped open the flag,” he said.
Hileman said he has future plans for the flag, including opening it at the Jefferson Memorial.
“It has been under construction. It was gorgeous and the steps are perfect. You can look through the columns and can see the statute of Thomas Jefferson,” he said.
Shanna said parents thinking of sending their children on the trip need to find a way to make it a reality.
“You leave with a higher respect for your country,” she said. “Everything you see or do is powerful and moving.”
Carly and Jill said they’d go on another trip if the opportunity came.
“It’s important to learn how you got where you are and it’s important to learn something bigger than yourself,” Jill said. “It’s Mr. Hileman’s class times 10.”