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At the foot of greatness

By C. Todd Lopez

ARLINGTON, Va. (April 19, 2007) -- Scott Hahn is a middle school student from the eighth-grade class at Los Flores Middle School, Orange County, Ca. He visited the Air Force Memorial here April 13, along with 100 other members of his class, as part of a field trip to several of the historical sites along the Mid-Atlantic.

Scott had never been to Washington, D.C., before, and many in his class were seeing such things as the Capitol Building, Arlington National Cemetery, the Vietnam Wall, and the Korean War Memorial for the first time. He said he was impressed that what he had seen on the trip so far was matching up with his lessons in school.

Eighth-graders Mackenzie Moreno and Scott Hahn, from Los Flores Middle School, Orange County, Ca., visited the Air Force Memorial with 100 of their classmates April 13. During a tour of historical sites along the Mid-Atlantic, the group visited Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Gettysburg, Pa., and Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

"I like it a lot," he said. "There's a lot of history here, and it's kind of cool to see all the stuff we are learning about, to see it in person."

Before a trip to the Pentagon, the class stopped to view the Air Force Memorial. He said he was impressed with what the memorial represents.

"It's cool they are getting the respect they deserve," he said of Airmen. "They work so hard. My family, my dad's whole side of the family, was in the military. He was in the Navy for more than 20 years. And his dad was in for 24 years in the Air Force."

Scott said he's also thinking of joining the military, though he's not sure yet if it should be the Marines or the Air Force. But he wants to join, "definitely," he said.

Dennis Orgeron is the class's history instructor. He said this was his eighth time to Washington as part of the class trip.

"Every year, we bring a group of eighth graders here, as part of their studies," he said. "We have about 495 eighth graders. And each year we bring about 100 kids that want to come and spend a week of their spring break in Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry and here in Washington."

Orgeron said the students were most impressed both by the size of Washington and its architecture.

"I think they are amazed by government buildings, and somebody told me yesterday while we were at Arlington National Cemetery, by the size of the city itself," he said. "They had no idea that is was so spread out and everything is so massive."

Also impressive, he said, was that his students were making a connection between the kinds of things they are seeing in Washington and what it means to be an American.

"One kid stood there at Arlington National Cemetery, as the driver told us about grave sites, and was just teary eyed and a little emotional," he said. "We also had several students that participated in a wreath laying. It was emotional to look at the kids and see that they recognize the sacrifices that people make. I think all of that comes together and gives them a better understating of where we live and what we are doing here."

Despite eight trips to Washington, D.C., and having family in the area, Orgeron had never seen the Air Force Memorial before.

"Last time we were here was a year ago," he said. "So it is the first time we've been here to the Memorial. This is beautiful, it's amazing."

The Air Force Memorial was dedicated Oct. 14, 2006, in Arlington, Va. Summer 2007 is the first tourist season the memorial is open for visitors.