Sunday, May 3, 2009

What a time...

We had such a great time and there we so many things that were "God things" that happened to us along the way...little things that He just put in our path that were such a blessing and an experience!  I have told you several and will tell you a few more!  God really watched out for us and protected us along the way and to Him we are thankful and grateful for such an amazing trip.  It is something that we will never forget and will talk about for years to come.

Friday was a fun, relaxing day.  We took a little cruise down the Potomac River to visit Mt. Vernon. That was one of the most beautiful places!  We toured George Washington's house and the surrounding edifices that were there in his day.  What an experience to be able to say that we had been where he was.  We paid respect at his grave and just enjoyed a more relaxing morning of touring that area.  Sure wish we would have had some more time to spend, but the day goes quickly!

We visited the National Archives that house the "Freedom Documents," and yes, Mrs. Parks, we do know what those are...the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights along with other amazing pieces including the Magna Carta.  That was quite an experience!

In the afternoon, we let the kids go swimming and take naps for a few hours.  We refreshed and headed to Joe Theismann's restaurant to receive our evening nourishment.  We then spent the next several hours visiting the monuments at night.  We had so much fun walking around DC together, laughing and talking, taking pictures and stopping for ice cream.  The memorials were so touching and beautiful.  I know that the Vietnam memorial meant a lot to so many of our students.  In some way, we have all been touched by this war and it was interesting to watch the students as each one of them soaked it in in different ways.  We were all humbled and thankful at the end of that memorial and we took a moment to reflect on the many thousands of people who sacrificed their lives and the families behind each name.

Saturday was a sad morning knowing that it was our last day together.  We savored each moment that morning and headed out to the Old Post office.  We went to the top of that building on a rather frightening elevator.  We all felt like we were in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and we would blow through the roof at the rate of speed at which we were traveling on said elevator.  We snapped several pictures and headed to the other side of town to the Iwo Jima memorial.  As we were walking around the memorial, I saw a very elderly gentleman trying to sit on the side of the marble steps that lead to the memorial.  His little walker had slipped from his hands and I ran as fast as I could to catch him just in time and help him to sit.  I retrieved his walker and as he thanked me for helping him, I looked into his face and his little hat said "Iwo Jima Survivor" surrounded by pins including the purple heart and medal of honor.  Tears filled my eyes as I asked him to tell me his story.  Time flew by as he talked about being on the first ship on the shores of Iwo Jima that fateful day many years ago.  He talked  of the horror he felt, killing the Japanese, his best friend's face being shot off right next to him and the subsequent injuries that he sustained while in the thick of the battle.  He was injured quite badly that first day of the sands of Iwo Jima and pulled to safety on the battleship.  Due to the extent of his injuries, he was confined to a body cast.  They put him on the deck of that ship to view the battle when one of the soldiers on the deck shouted "look, the flag is going up on Suribachi."  As he drifted in and out of consciousness, he looked just in time to watch the flag as it was being raised by the six brave soldiers.  He told how his eyes were filled with tears and his heart of pride to watch that happen.  Out little group stood around watching a piece of history retell his story.  I could not help the humility I felt in my heart and the tears that welled up in my eyes.  Mr. Ward lifted his pant leg to revel a mangled leg.  He laughed as he said that he pulled out a rather sizable piece of shrapnel out of his leg just a few days ago.  Time flew by as we heard him tell his story.  He reached in the pouch of his walker and revealed a book and signed it for me..."To a beautiful girl   Gordon F. Ward 4th Marine Div."  That is a book I will cherish for the rest of my life.  He said that he was shocked that so many young people would be interested in his story, and that we were!  We thanked him and got our picture with him.  I believe that God put him in our path and to Him we are thankful for that experience.

We hurried back across town, had lunch at Baja Fresh and visited the Holocaust museum.  That was an amazing museum!  Jason, Zach and myself went before the rest of the group to confirm that the group was coming (because they were eating and would be late).  Jason and Zach grabbed a bite to eat while I waited for the group.  As I was sitting in the lobby waiting, a distinguished white-haired lady sat next to me.  Her husband came to where we were sitting and they exchanged a few words and I heard, "we can get a survivor pass any time we want it..."  That caught my attention and after he left, I apologized for overhearing the conversation but asked if she was a holocaust survivor.  She was not, but her best friends both were.  They had traveled from Australia to see this museum with their friends who had survived this tragedy in history.  Myself and the students were able to meet them and quickly chat.  The museum was something that will remain in my heart for the rest of my life.

The overwhelming thought on my mind was the history that walked/still walks among us.  We are surrounded by people who have paved the path that we so carelessly walk every day with no thought as to who might have paved it for us.  I have a new appreciation for our American freedom and those who have fought to secure it.  Next time you see an elderly person wearing a hat to distinguish what they have done, take a moment and thank them.  They are the reason that we live in such a free country.  My heart is filled with thankfulness to them for their sacrifices and to those families who lost someone in a battle that never saw their loved one again.  Names are everywhere of those who gave that ultimate sacrifice and I know that there are countless stories behind each name.  I know that the group that went will carry this trip in their hearts and will recount each story for many years to come.

Thank you to each one of you who sacrificed for this trip to be possible!  I would like to thank Mrs. Park's sisters, Holly and Heidi for watching Macey so that she could go, the Biermans and Hathaways for watching the Madison and Mackensae.  Mrs. Parks, you added such a fun element to the trip!  It was not easy for you to leave your family to go with us, but we appreciate it.  And we won't tell all of your secrets...the superbowl, the Secretary of State, etc...
Thank you, Mrs. Yoder for letting Mr. Yoder go!  I know that it was a great experience for him could see it on his face!
Mr. Parks, we know that you will have many things to make up when you get back for the week you missed, but you were an amazing leader!  Thanks for getting us everywhere on the subway or "tram" as some like to call it.....aahhhemmm, Julia!!!  You were great fun and we appreciate the sacrifices you made to be with us!
Mrs. Hutchinson, thank you for all the work you put in to this trip.  We could have never had a successful trip without your help.  Thanks for letting me bug you every day with whatever we needed to accomplish!  You were always a constant encouragement, reminding me and everyone else that God would provide...and He did!
Mrs. Ray, you put in an immense amount of effort for the planning of the actual trip.  Your itineraries and detailed plans were the best I have ever seen.  We were quite prepared thanks to you!  You are greatness.  Thank you for your many hours!
To each of you parents, thank you for sticking with me and not strangling me when we had fundraisers like mad!  So many of you were such an encouragement and a blessing to me and I very much appreciate it!
To each of you who donated any amount of money...we are thankful.  This would not have been successful without the generous donations of kind people.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Graduating class of '09...what a fun time!  You all made our job of sponsor so much fun.  I would not have wanted to do this with anyone else!  You all are great.  We have so many memories.  Cherish them.  Time passes so quickly and soon, your high school career will be over.  Savor the last few days!  I am proud of each of you and can't wait to see you walk down that aisle!  After having been your teacher for 5 years, what a fun way for me to say "good bye" to you!  Keep me posted with your news and we'll keep the blog alive!!  Thanks for a great time!