Youth Tour 2016: A moment at the Changing of the Guard

Katie Ryan-Anderson is the manager of member communications for Dakota Valley and Northern Plains Electric Cooperatives in North Dakota. As a chaperone for the 2016 Youth Tour, in which high school students get to tour Washington, D.C. and learn about how rural electric cooperatives fight for important issues, she is sharing the students’ experiences through social media.

Ryan-Anderson volunteered to share her stories here on Basin Electric: Live Wire.

You can also watch the group’s progress via Facebook and Twitter:
Facebook: Facebook.com/dakotavalleyelectric
Facebook: Facebook.com/northernplainselectric
Twitter: @DakValElectric
Twitter: @NplainsElectric

Also, add Northern Plains Electric on Snapchat: nplainelectric

Watch #ytdc for posts from co-ops across the nation.

-Editor’s note

Birds chirped. Magnolias perfumed. Mother Nature provided a perfect 84 degrees. Had it not been for the 400,000 graves, one might have called it a beautiful day.

Instead, tears fell upon the cheeks of Youth Tour recipients June 14, and the cheeks of their chaperones too.

Electric cooperatives throughout the country sent students to Washington D.C. this week. The trip is called the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. Each co-op sends its best and brightest. For seven days, they tour memorials, museums and learn history, co-ops and character building.

Tuesday’s agenda included Arlington National Cemetery.

As students climbed the stone stairs, they read the names of soldiers fallen, their wives and sometimes, infant children. The students paid their respects at John F. Kennedy’s eternal flame. They visited the estate of Robert E. Lee. It was his wife’s 1,100 acres that would later become the resting place of nearly a half million veterans.

Next was Changing of the Guard.

Youth Tour 2016 Changing of the Guard

The Changing of the Guard.

Youth Tour 2016 Changing of the Guard

Onlookers watch the Changing of the Guard.

As the students climbed single-file onto the marble steps, veterans rolled in behind them. A Kansas Honor Flight group of a couple dozen veterans and their families arrived by foot and by chair. They waited for the U.S. Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment to complete its ceremony and then approached the site to see it again. As the veterans approached the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, crowds parted. They made way for the men, women and their wheelchairs.

Twenty-one steps south. Face east 21 seconds. Face north 21 seconds. Twenty-one steps north. Face east 21 seconds. Face south 21 seconds.

Taps played. Tears fell.

The veterans lifted their hands to their heads in salute.

Crowds dispersed.

Youth Tour 2016

A veteran at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

As individuals found their groups, one man in a wheel chair sat alone. Despite the solemn nature of the ritual, the World War II and Korean War vet appeared content. His attendant had grown ill from the sun. Without help, he waited while others found their groups.

“Hey – could you use a hand?” asked a small voice.

Youth Tour 2016

Owen Nelson, Lower Yellowstone Rural Electric Cooperative, with a veteran he met during Youth Tour 2016. Photo credit: Vicki Fix, Southeast Electric Cooperative.

The voice belonged to Owen Nelson, a student from Montana. A member of Lower Yellowstone Rural Electric Cooperative, Nelson was moved by the day’s service. And when he saw the veteran waiting, Owen offered what he could.

Soon, the two rolled back down the hill, exchanging stories and maybe a few laughs.

The gesture is indicative of this year’s Youth Tour Group, says Beckie Frediani, Youth Tour leader for North Dakota and Montana. The students exhibit such character, that it’s no surprise one them would demonstrate such kindness, she says. “In trying times like this, we fear for the future. But, these students put our fears at ease,” Frediani says.

“It’s not every day you get a chance to help a veteran like this, in Arlington National Cemetery,” Nelson says. Watch the video.

And with that little push, Youth Tour recognized the Unknown Soldier, and some of the known soldiers too.

Youth Tour 2016

Youth Tour 2016 and participants meet at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo credit: Vicki Fix, Southeast Electric Cooperative.

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