Over the Thanksgiving break, Steve and Joy Edwards took a group of five students — Michael Cooney ‘16, Maya Cooney ‘20, Josh Fixler ‘19, Jack Klingel ‘20, and Maddy Landry ‘19 — to Washington, D.C. for what they described as “an educational adventure” with the group visiting historic landmarks like the United States Capitol, Library of Congress, and the Pentagon. This was the seventh straight year Mr. and Mrs. Edwards have taken a group to the nation’s capital.
“This has become somewhat of a tradition for Farragut students,” Mr. Edwards said. “Our aggressive schedule allowed us to visit and/or tour the most famous and celebrated venues and sites in our nation’s capital. In addition to the traditional D.C. venues, we were afforded very special opportunities because of Farragut’s association with important dignitaries in Washington.”
The group was also able to link up with two Farragut alumni during their visit. Candy Huang ’13, who attends Penn State University and spent her first semester this year interning in Washington DC, joined the group for a day of touring. Tee Dunnvatanachit ’12, who attends Stratford University in Virginia, along with Candy, also joined the group for dinner that night, along with current student Nynn Polchan ‘16 who was visiting Tee during the break.
“It was great to have all of our students, current and alumni, together.”
Discover the notable people, places and events of the trip:
by Steve Edwards
UNITED STATES CAPITOL
John Hodges ’85N, Farragut alum who has worked in the Capitol for 24 years, gave us a private tour of the Capitol building, one of the most architecturally impressive and symbolically meaningful buildings in the world. In addition to the Rotunda, Statuary Hall, the original Supreme Court, and numerous other Capitol highlights, we were given special access to locations not open to the public. We visited the office of the Sergeant At Arms of the US House of Representatives. He is the gentleman who introduces the President of the United States when he comes onto the floor of the House for the State of the Union address. We were allowed to hold the Ceremonial Mace which has been in service since 1842, and is posted when the House is in session. We were afforded special entry into the chamber of the House of Representatives. We saw the location under the Capitol dome that was originally designated for the burial of President George Washington. We also visited the “Flag Office”, and the studios where members of the House make their videos. We visited the military Congressional Liaison Offices of the Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force. In addition, we also visited the offices of Congressman David Jolly and Congresswoman Kathy Castor.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
We toured the Library of Congress and the students were most impressed with Thomas Jefferson’s original personal library, which was purchased by Congress after the burning of the Capitol and the Library of Congress during the War of 1812.
FOUR STAR ADMIRAL YOST
On our fourth night there, we had dinner and a two-hour conversation with ADM Paul Yost, Jr., retired U.S. Coast Guard admiral who served as the 18th Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1986 to 1990. Admiral Yost, who is Ms. Joy’s Uncle, shared stories of his military service and answered questions from our students.
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY / FT. MYER CAISSON BARN
We spent a full day at Arlington National Cemetery, described as the most hallowed ground in America and our nation’s most sacred shrine. For nine hours, we walked through the cemetery and paid our respects at numerous grave sites.
We visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers where we observed the changing of the guard.
After paying our respects and watching the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington Cemetery, we proceeded to Ft. Myer and were given a tour and briefing at the Caisson Barn where the United States Army 3rd Infantry, the “Old Guard”, maintains the funeral caissons and horses utilized in burials at the cemetery. We saw the caissons used for the burials of President Roosevelt, President Kennedy, and President Reagan. We were given access to and contact with the horses, including the “rider-less horse” from President Reagan’s funeral procession. We were able to interact with that horse named “SGT York”. He served as the rider-less horse in Presidents Reagan’s funeral procession, walking behind the caisson bearing Reagan’s flag-draped casket, with President Reagan’s boots, by tradition, reversed in the stirrups. Our students loved the horses, and from all appearances, the horses loved them as well.
We visited the graves of President Kennedy, President Taft, Senators Robert and Ted Kennedy, General Omar Bradley, Robert Todd Lincoln (son of President Abraham Lincoln), General Jimmy Doolittle, actor Lee Marvin, boxer Joe Louis, and numerous Medal of Honor recipients, including Audie Murphy (the most decorated soldier of WWII and later an actor) and Greg “Pappy” Boyington, Commander of the famous Black Sheep Squadron.
We visited the Marine Corps Iwo Jima Memorial which is always very inspirational. We visited the graves of Rene Gagnon and Ira Hayes, two of the Marines depicted in the Marine Corps Memorial and the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima.
We visited the grave of the very first soldier buried at Arlington in May 1864.
We saw the grave of Abner Doubleday. Abner Doubleday was a career United States Army officer and Union General. He fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter, the opening battle of the war, and had a pivotal role in the early fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg. Gettysburg was his finest hour. In San Francisco, after the war, he obtained a patent on the cable car railway that still runs there. He is also credited as being the inventor of the sport of baseball.
We visited the grave of General John “Black Jack” Pershing, the general in the United States Army who led the American Expeditionary Forces to victory over Germany in World War I. He is buried near the grave sites of the soldiers he commanded in Europe.
We visited the grave sites of astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee who died tragically in a pre-launch test of Apollo 1. They are buried side by side.
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY – FARRAGUT STAFF AND CADETS
A very special part of our time at Arlington National Cemetery was our time at the grave sites of Admiral Farragut Academy staff and students. I have researched these individuals and we set aside time to visit and pay our respects to those from Admiral Farragut Academy, including, founders General Radford and Admiral Robison, former Superintendent, Captain Klein, and Cyrus Radford, Jr, the first ever Farragut cadet. We visited and paid our respects at the gravesite of United States Marine Corps Major Megan McClung. Megan was the first female cadet at Admiral Farragut Academy and the first female graduate of our Academy. She was the first female graduate of the Naval Academy to be killed in combat since the academy was founded in 1845, and the first female Marine Corps Officer to be killed in the Iraq War.
We also paid our respects at Arlington Cemetery at the grave sites of Major Paul Yost and his wife Jeanne, Ms. Joy’s grandparents.
While at Arlington we toured Arlington House, former home of General Robert E. Lee.
“As we were preparing to depart Megan McClung’s grave site, we noticed a woman kneeling at a grave close by,” said Mr. Edwards. “She was alone, crying, and very emotional. Ms. Joy went to speak with her and learned that she was visiting the grave of her son who had been killed in combat three years ago. We took our students to speak with her. Each of us hugged her and thanked her for her sacrifice. We learned that she comes to Arlington Cemetery regularly to visit her son’s grave. With tears streaming down her face, she expressed her gratitude and appreciation for our kindness and our expressions of sympathy and our reaching out to her. She said that our condolences and our hugs were the best things that had happened to her in a long time.”
We received a private and personal Pentagon tour conducted by a member of the Navy Ceremonial Guard. Our tour was very educational, and was filled with emotion when we visited the location where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. We visited the Memorial Chapel to pay our respects to those who lost their lives on that tragic day. The outdoor Pentagon Memorial adjacent to the Pentagon is unique and inspiring.
While at the Pentagon, we visited with our good friend, Force Master Chief C.J. Mitchell, former Command Master Chief of the USS FARRAGUT. Our students were impressed to see our Farragut challenge coin proudly displayed in his office along with his Drill Team cord. C.J. is one of 3 Honorary Members of our AFA Exhibition Drill Team.
We saw the offices of the Chief of Naval Operations, the most senior officer in the Navy, and the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, the most senior enlisted member of the Navy. We also saw the offices of the Secretary of the Navy.
NAVY CEREMONIAL GUARD / NAVY DRILL TEAM
We were honored and privileged to spend two days with the Navy Ceremonial Guard and Navy Drill Team. This elite unit serves the President of the United States and is the Ceremonial Unit of the United States Navy. It is comprised of Drill Team, Colors, Firing Party, and Casket units. We visited their extraordinary facilities and interacted with the Commanding Officer, the Executive Officer, the Command Master Chief, the Senior Chiefs, and the sailors that comprise their four units – Drill Team, Colors, Firing Party, and Caskets. They took us behind the scenes to brief us on their training and extensive preparations. Each unit demonstrated their specialty and the Drill Team gave us a full performance. The dedication, devotion, discipline, and bearing of this unit are exemplary and extraordinary.
During their demonstrations, the Ceremonial Guard militarily folded and presented the American flag to LCDR Steve Edwards.
Thanksgiving Day was very special. We were invited to again visit and share the day and have dinner with the United States Navy Ceremonial Guard and Navy Drill Team. Thanksgiving dinner was incredible, and was made even more special by sharing it with the outstanding men and women of the Navy Ceremonial Guard.
ADMIRAL DAVID FARRAGUT
It is gratifying to see the extensive presence of Admiral David Farragut in our nation’s capital. In addition to his statue in Farragut Square and his uniform in the Smithsonian American History Museum, numerous David Farragut memorabilia, paintings, portraits, artifacts, and remembrances are visible in the city. The statue of David Farragut at Farragut Square was made from the metal of the USS Hartford propeller.
Farragut Square is a prime stop on the METRO system with two different stations.
ADMIRAL EDWARD MASSO
We received a call from ADM Edward “Sonny” Masso asking us to join him for dinner. ADM Masso and Ms. Joy and I have a mutual friend who told him that we would be in DC. He wanted to meet our students and learn about Admiral Farragut Academy. ADM Masso’s Navy assignments included Vice Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; Vice Commander, Naval Surface Forces; and Assistant Deputy Chief of Naval Operations. ADM Masso will be the keynote speaker at the Remember / Honor / Support 9/11 Patriots Day Memorial ceremony that our students participate in each year.
OUR NAVY HERITAGE
While in D.C., we focused on our Navy heritage with visits to the Navy Memorial, the Navy Yard, and the Navy Museum. At the Navy Memorial, we saw the special plaque for Admiral David Farragut. The Navy Museum is located at the Washington Navy Yard. We were given a private tour of the museum which has one of the greatest collections of Navy history anywhere. The Navy Museum has numerous David Farragut and USS Hartford items and exhibits. We saw the ship’s wheel and fife rail as well as the ship’s bell. They have the anchor from the USS Hartford which was attached to the capstan and cathead which are located outside our Student Center at AFA. They have the top of our capstan and the figure head which was attached to our cathead. They also have a “torpedo” which David Farragut referred to in his famous quotation, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”. The fact that we share these historical artifacts with the Navy Museum made our trip there especially meaningful.
We were also given a private tour of the Cold War Museum.
The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum has displays honoring the astronauts and Farragut graduates Alan Shepard and Charlie Duke.
We visited the National Archives where we saw the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.
We visited Ford’s Theater where President Lincoln was assassinated. We toured the Petersen House where President Lincoln died, the museum containing many artifacts relating to the assassination, and the Lincoln Educational Center.
The Washington Monument had been closed since 2011 due to structural damage resulting from a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred on Tuesday, August 2011 approximately 84 miles southwest of D.C. During our D.C. visits the past few years, we had the unique opportunity to see the monument encased in scaffolding for repairs. Our photos with the scaffolding surrounding the monument will be collectors’ items someday. This year, the Washington Monument was reopened and we were able to enjoy the incredible panoramic view from the tallest building in Washington. The Park Service Officers told us that they will soon offer special select opportunities to actually use the stairs in the monument rather than the elevator.
Our Smithsonian museums visits included both Air & Space Museums – the one on the National Mall and the one at Dulles, as well as American History, Natural History, Native American Indian, and the Smithsonian Castle. The American History Museum has a display honoring Alan Shepard which contains his flight suit and other items.
NATIONAL BOTANIC GARDENS
The National Botanic Gardens opened their special Christmas display on Thanksgiving Day, which served to put us all in the Christmas spirit.
OTHER VENUES VISITED
In addition to our special opportunities, we visited the following venues: Union Station, Blair House, the White House and White House Visitor Center, Treasury Department, Supreme Court, WWI Memorial, WWII Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Roosevelt Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, John Paul Jones Memorial, and General Ulysses Grant Memorial.
SPIKE MENDELSOHN ‘00
We dined multiple times at Good Stuff Eatery, Béarnaise, and We The Pizza, the very renowned and famous restaurants of Farragut alumni Spike Mendelsohn who graduated in 2000. He has appeared on several television programs including Bravo TV’s Top Chef and Food Network’s Iron Chef.
Want to go next year?
We are already planning and looking forward to our Thanksgiving break Washington DC trip for 2016 and are taking reservations. The trip is open to boarders and day students in grades 6 through 12. Contact Joy and Steve Edwards for more details: firstname.lastname@example.org.