On June 30, 10 young men from Payson joined Dan and Rose Hill on a patriotic pilgrimage to Washington D.C., Valley Forge and Gettysburg, Pa., and New York.
The young men were Tommy Ashby, Shane and Troy Brown, Jeremy Davies, David Hill, Austin Slapnicka, James Vandruff, Nathan and Nick Wearne, and Michael Winterholler. While this was not an official Boy Scout activity, eight of these teenagers are Eagle Scouts, the other two are close to it
"Neither the Boy Scout organization, or our sponsoring organization, can accept the liabilities involved in this big of a trip," Dan Hill said. "This was simply a personal trip that I invited my Eagles to join me on."
The group traveled by plane to Baltimore/Washington International Airport. From there they traveled by vans, trains, subways, buses, and on foot, visiting many of our nation's historic landmarks.
"We've seen all these places on TV or in pictures," Jeremy Davies said, "but it was awesome to see them for real. Everything was a lot bigger than we realized."
"I learned more about American history in the last 10 days than I've ever learned in school," Nick Wearne said.
The following is a daily log of the trip kept by Dan Hill:
- b>Day 1: Wednesday, June 30- We arrived at Sky Harbor Airport early for our 8:45 a.m. flight. We expected security might be tight since we were flying to the nation's capitol in time for the Independence Day weekend. Sure enough, it was. They only opened a couple of our duffel bags, but they searched every one of our boxes of gear, and all our ice chests. They also made us take off our shoes when we passed through the security gates.
We arrived in Baltimore at 4:30 p.m. The flight was only four-and-a-half hours long, but we lost three hours crossing the country.
We picked up our rental vans, and found our campground in Millersville, Md. with no problem. We set up camp -- home for the next six days -- and headed out to buy groceries.
- Day 2: Thursday, July 1 -- We drove to the nearest Metro-Subway station. It took a minute to figure out the ticketing machines. We barely made it to the White House on time for our 9 a.m. tour. Congressman Rick Renzi prearranged tours for us at the White House and at the Capitol building for today, and the Pentagon and Library of Congress tomorrow.
The White House was beautiful, but no cameras were allowed which caught us by surprise. We were also surprised by how little of it we actually got to see. The highlight for the guys was not the Blue Room, Executive Dining Hall, or any of the rooms, for that matter. It was visiting with one of the police special unit snipers who protect the White House, and seeing a heavily-armed SWAT team member patrolling the building.
After the White House tour, we walked around the National Mall taking in the Washington Monument, the new World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Wall, and the National Boy Scout Memorial.
At 2 p.m., we met at the office of Congressman Renzi, and were escorted by one of his staff through a tour of the Capitol building. It was far more grand and elegant on the inside than any of us expected.
We finished our first day in the Capitol with a tour of the Holocaust Museum. We had been forewarned, so we were prepared for the shocking and graphic nature in which the Holocaust was portrayed. Most of these young men have read books, and studied a little about World War II, but the displays made it all hit home in our minds and hearts that it really happened, and how awful it was.
Back at camp, we fixed dinner, then headed out to see "Spider Man II," which just opened in theaters yesterday.
- b>Day 3: Friday, July 2 -- We had a 9 a.m. appointment again this morning; this time, to see the Pentagon. It was easily the best tour of the trip so far for these young men. We had two great tour guides. One was Army, the other Air Force, both in full-dress uniforms. We really didn't see a lot of the Pentagon, but what we saw was impressive. The most moving part of the tour was the rebuilt section of the Pentagon following the tragedy of 9/11/01. A small memorial has been built in the spot where the hi-jacked plane crashed through the building killing 184 military and civilian workers. We learned that the destroyed area was occupied by Army personnel. Our Army tour guide was visibly emotional as we entered the room. We were asked to make sure all pagers, cell phones, etc. were turned off, our hats removed, and to remain quiet, out of respect for those who died there. The Memorial Room defies description. It was a somber place. A reverent place. A holy place.
In a lighter vein, we were shown the inner courtyard of the Pentagon. At the center of the courtyard is a small building that serves as a hot dog stand. Some years ago, during the Cold War, Soviet Satellites registered hundreds of people coming and going from the building carrying small packages. They determined it must be the entrance to a secret, underground nuclear silo. They promptly aimed their nuclear weapons at it. There were more nuclear weapons aimed at this one location than any other. The small building came to be called the "Ground Zero Hot Dog Stand -- the deadliest place to eat in the world."
Following our Pentagon Tour we visited the Smithsonian's American History Museum. We ate lunch in the food court in the basement of the Ronald Reagan Building, then headed to the Library of Congress for our tour there. The architecture was unbelievable, and every detail of the library was rich with symbolism.
We ended the day by touring the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum -- Dinosaur Bones and the Hope Diamond -- and going to the IMAX Theatre.
- b>Day 4: Saturday, July 3 -- Today, we toured the International Spy Museum, The Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, the Jefferson Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the World War I Memorial. We must have walked at least 10 miles. Everyone is very tired. The muggy heat here saps the energy right out of you.
Back at camp, I did eight loads of laundry, while the young men took advantage of the campground's swimming pool.
Watch next Friday's Roundup for Part 2 of Dan and Rose Hill's trip back east with a group of Eagle Scouts.