Gwinnett Composite Squadron members visit the:
World War II Memorial.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Museum, where they stand in front of Space Shuttle Discovery.
Photos by 2nd Lt. Mark Bohan, Georgia Wing
1st Lt. Toby Palmquist
Public Affairs Officer
Gwinnett Composite Squadron
GEORGIA – Gwinnett Composite Squadron members traveled recently to Washington, D.C., to expand their knowledge and appreciation of the nation's founders, military leaders and historic sites as part of a trip that included visits to the White House and Arlington National Cemetery.
The unit helped fund the trip with money raised from collecting Wreaths Across America sponsorships – particularly fitting, members felt, in light of the wreaths campaign’s mission statement: “Remember Tthe Fallen, Honor Those Who Serve; Teach Our Children the Value of Freedom So They Never Forget.”
The participating members arrived at Joint Base Andrews, Md., on May 31. After settling in at Davison Army Airfield at Fort Belvoir, Va., the group moved out to visit the Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Washington monuments, pausing during the final stop to discuss the United States’ beginnings and heritage as the sun was setting and a cool breeze blew across the lawn.
The next day brought visits to two the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington and the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly,Va. The Civil Air Patrol members were particularly thrilled to see such historic aircraft such as the Enola Gay and Lockheed SR-71 and to walk beneath Space Shuttle Discovery
June 2 proved to be a day of emotional impact and reflection. After a short but exceptionally interesting tour of the White House, the Gwinnett members visited Arlington National Cemetery, laying flowers and presenting arms at the gravesites of President John F. Kennedy; U.S. Air Force Gens. Henry “Hap” Arnold, Jimmy Doolittle, Ira C. Eaker and Daniel “Chappie” James Jr.; U.S. Army Gens. Omar Bradley and John J. Pershing; and U.S. Marine Corps Col. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, as tourists from around the world snapped photos of their tributes.
The squadron members then arrived at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as the ceremonial Changing of the Guard was about to began.
Later in the day the members visited the Lincoln, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials.
Making that stage of the visit particularly memorable was a chance meeting with a veteran whose image is etched on the Korean War Memorial. All 32 members of the Gwinnett group surrounded the man, leaning forward to listen to his heartbreaking, heroic stories of the war.
With two granddaughters in hand, he told of three Corsairs flying in to save his unit from being overrun by the enemy.
At the perfect moment the squadron’s cadet commander, Cadet Lt. Col Michael Karsten, called:
He held it for 10 seconds ... and then:
There wasn’t a dry eye in the group. Nearby, other tourists stopped taking photos and stood silently weeping.