When Jacob Deem, a Nationalist senator from Georgia, tells people Boys Nation was an experience that shaped his life, he'll be able to identify the very moment that it happened.
Deem was with the other senators from the 67th session of Boys Nation on Wednesday night at Twilight Tattoo – an hour-long military pageant put on in the fields of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va. The musical showcase depicts 238 years of U.S. wars using arrangements and authentic reenactments by enlisted performers.
Participating among the costumed enlisted in the performance on Wednesday night was Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, who is the most senior enlisted member of the Army. As a West Point hopeful and someone who comes from a family with deep Army ties, Deem beamed with enthusiasm when he heard Chandler was on hand.
Deem got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity after Twilight Tattoo ended to visit with Chandler and take a picture with the man whom he admires immensely.
"It was the neatest moment of my life," Deem said. "They say this is the week that shapes a lifetime – that moment itself is going to have a profound impact on me."
Deem, who already sports the high-and-tight haircut, has been around the military his entire life and intends to continue his family's tradition when he joins the Army himself. He also participates in the daily Boys Nation Color Guard each morning and night, and he hangs a U.S. flag in every room he sleeps in; his Boys Nation dorm room is no exception.
He savored every moment of the night, beginning with the tribute that Twilight Tattoo paid to U.S. military history and ending with his meeting the Army's top enlisted servicemember.
"I have seen Ranger graduations, and I've seen infantry graduations, but none of it came significantly close to seeing the command sergeant major and the show itself," Deem said. "Everything that happens here I am going to hold it so near and dear to my heart because it is a once in a lifetime experience."
The pageantry of Twilight Tattoo had a strong impact on the other senators as well. Galen Creekmore, a Nationalist senator from Virginia, was impressed with the authenticity of Twilight Tattoo's reenactments and the precision with which the enlisted performers twirled their bayonetted rifles.
"It was an impressive display of both the power and training of our armed forces, and it really took us through history," Creekmore said.
Fittingly, the senators visited the National World War II Memorial in D.C. earlier in the day. The monument, located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, is separated by war theatres and depicts various scenes from the war on its walls.
Creekmore took the time to admire the 4,048 gold stars on the monument's Freedom Wall. One star represents 100 dead Americans from the war.
"When you see a number on a piece of paper, it looks like a lot," Creekmore said. "But it never hit me so hard as when I saw all those stars and the names on the Vietnam wall."
The senators spent the rest of the day voting on and reviewing bills and resolutions. At the end of Day 5, every bill and resolution have been read, and around 10 to 15 bills have been passed into laws.
Matt Mullin, a Nationalist senator from Massachusetts, said that even though the senators have been passionate in advocating for their legislation, the senators have always maintained a mutual respect for each other and the Boys Nation program.
"We find respect for each other, even if we have opposing views," Mullin said. "I think we are becoming even more efficient as the days go on."