Sunday at Boys Nation 2022: “It’s our heritage”

Aiden Mikolajczyk, then 12, did not fully grasp the significance of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on his first visit.

“I remember seeing the name of a member of my family on this wall. So when I was there last night, I wanted to find his name,” said Mikolajczyk, now about to start his senior year of high school.

Mikolajczyk, one of two New York senators with the American Legion Boys Nation, was looking for his great-uncle, Dennis, when visiting the program at the National Mall on Sunday night. Having worked at the World War II Museum in Eldred, Pennsylvania, Mikolajczyk’s understanding of the sacrifices made by veterans has grown over the years since that first visit to the memorial.

“I meet a lot of Vietnam veterans, and just seeing the names on the wall, now knowing what I know, it really puts into perspective all that has been given for our country. So I became very emotional seeing all this; it meant a lot to me,” he said Monday morning during Boys Nation’s trip to Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Memorial.

“Passing by (the Vietnam Veterans Memorial) it was incredibly quiet, as it is in the Holocaust room of our museum; it reminded me of that, just the solemn and serious nature. We were all talking, we were having a good time before that, but everyone understood the main thing, understood how important it was. It was very, very moving. It’s hard to put into words what I felt. Seeing our reflection in the stone, (thinking about) how we have to take up the torch so to speak because this is our legacy,” he said.

The emotions continued with a visit to the Iwo Jima Memorial, as Mikolajczyk told the story of a great-great-uncle killed on the first day of fighting on the island.

“He was 16 when World War II broke out. He told his mum that if she didn’t sign his papers he was going to lie about his age and join anyway,” he said. And so she ended up signing his papers, he left, and he was killed on Iwo Jima the first day, as part of the first wave. He was a hero. …

“We have a letter from her mother, written in Polish, and she fought every day because she signed these documents. She thought it was her fault even though it wasn’t.

“A surreal experience”

Once the Boys Nation senators arrive at Marymount University on Friday, they have about 48 hours to go before they leave campus – two days filled with meetings with each other and program staff, and learning and learning. execution of the Senate process.

So it was understandable that, for Idaho’s Jayden LaVecchia, the experience of being in Washington, D.C., didn’t really begin until Sunday night’s visit to Station 136 in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the National Mall.

“When we first got here, I hate to say it, but it almost felt like we were still in Idaho, I didn’t get that surreal feeling of ‘Oh, wow, I’m in Washington DC,'” LaVecchia said. . “And then we went to the Legion post, and I met so many amazing people there, including the national commander, I heard some amazing stories, and that’s when it started to kick in, the surrealism of ‘Whoa, there’s something more than me there.

“Coming here, everything has been super surreal,” said Bridger Benson, fellow Idaho senator from LaVecchia. “Looking at all the monuments, I always feel like I’m looking at a picture on my phone. I’m just grateful to be here. …I can’t wait to share my experiences with the kids at my school to encourage them to coming to Boys State and Boys Nation next year.

McKinley Rhoades of Alaska also wants to encourage the next class of Boys State and Boys Nation delegates. He credited Jonathan Ford, one of the Alaska senators for the 2021 edition of Boys Nation, for recruiting him to Boys State.

Delaware’s Aaron Maniyatte was a substitute at his school, so he was especially grateful for the Boys Nation experience. “It was an amazing experience to be able to meet everyone from different states,” he said.

Connecticut’s Owen Bland noted that he and his fellow Boys Nation senators are not in Washington as tourists, but with a purpose.

“Knowing that we are here to reflect on the future of the country, you can feel the legacy. … You can feel history being made every day, it’s awesome,” Bland said.

memorial service

Sunday morning activities began with a memorial service that included a message from National Chaplain Rev. Stanley Hamamoto. Boys Nation senators also participated:

· Welcome and opening prayer: Hudson Seago (Arkansas)

POW/MIA Souvenir: Nicholas Rutkoski (Michigan) and Peter Van Overbeke (Maine)

· Dedication of the crown: Orion Van Buskirk (Oregon), Rylan Cruise (North Carolina), Luke Pullin (Georgia), Scott Bricker (Kentucky), Aiden Mikolajczyk (New York) and John Wiest (Rhode Island)

Closing prayer: Ford Daniels (South Carolina)

Social connections

Learn about the singing talents of Boys Nation and their visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. And don’t forget to follow all the happenings at legion.org/boysnation, on YouTube at americanlegionHQ, and on social media on Twitter (@ALBoysNation) and Instagram (@theamericanlegion) with the hashtag #BoysNation2022.

The Sunday number

6 – The number of bills passed Sunday by the Boys Nation Senate on their first full day of action.

About Bobby F. Lopez

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