Boys Nation Day 3: National Mall tour

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During Day 3 of 2012 Boys Nation, the senators participated in a memorial service in which David Karaz, a junior counselor for the Jefferson section, led the young men in singing patriotic songs. A POW/MIA ceremony also was conducted by three senators before American Legion National Chaplain Gerald Theriot from Louisiana spoke. Theriot asked the young men to reflect on the war memorials that they would soon see.

"As you view the National Mall memorials, think of what and who they represent," Theriot said. "We are reminded of the gift that has been given – the gift of freedom. And let us remember our deceased patriots in our prayers today and every day. And let us remember to comfort the loved ones they have left behind."

After the memorial service, the senators began debating and voting on bills in their respective senate committee. There are four senate committees: 1) agriculture, appropriations, armed services and banking; (2) budget, commerce, transportation, energy and natural resources; (3) environment, public works, finance, foreign relations, government affairs, Indian affairs and intelligence; and (4) judiciary, rules, veterans' affairs, health, education, labor, small business, ethics and aging.

Before a bill can be voted upon, it first must be introduced on the senate floor by its creator. Then the calendar committee decides what committee the bill falls under and gives it a rank. From there, the assigned senate committee debates on it in effort to amend, pass or veto the bill.

One such bill, legislation to terminate presidential and congressional salaries and benefits, was introduced by Colton Buckley from Gatesville, Texas, and later passed in Committee No. 3

"I created this bill because the issue with Washington, D.C., is that the folks who have gotten there have been put in the back pocket of lobbyist; they have become multi-millionaires," Buckley said. "I believe Washington is broken because we have so many of these folks that are making a career out of being a politician."

After lunch, the young men conducted party conventions for nearly four hours. The ample time was needed, as senators from the Federalist and Nationalist party campaigned for Boys Nation president and vice president. Between both parties, nearly 40 senators ran for president and 30 for vice president. Each candidate was allotted five minutes on the senate floor to campaign for votes because elections for the two positions within each party take place Monday evening.

Sunday evening, the young men received a warm welcome from many American Legion family members at Greenbelt Post 136 in Maryland, where they ate dinner.

"The best part of my experience so far has been meeting all of these Legion family members," said Giovanni Moujaes from San Diego, Calif. "Even though the senate sessions have been great, actually getting to know these people who have served our country has been amazing."

The post has opened its doors to the Boys Nation program for the past 31 years with food, conversation and remarks from the national commander. Before American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong addressed the senators, he ate dinner with a few of them. And when he asked the young men the difference between Boys State and Boys Nation, Alex DiLalla from Raleigh, N.C., said, "Boys State is the ‘B’ team. These guys (Boys Nation) are all A+ players."

During his remarks, Wong shared his role as national commander and his thoughts on U.S. government today. Afterward, he imparted words of wisdom upon the senators.

"When you are visiting high-ranking politicians, pay attention to what they are saying, but go back and do what’s right," Wong said. "Because the decisions you are making are for your country – not for yourself."

The senators followed by singing "America Chant" and "This Land Is Your Land." before departing for the National Mall. The visit was a time for the senators to reflect and pay honor to fallen war heroes. As the senators quietly walked alongside the nearly 60,000 soldiers’ names engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Alex Lux from West Allis, Wis., paid honor to his uncle. He kissed his uncle's name, placed his right hand on it and kneeled.

Meanwhile, the Korean War Veterans Memorial inspired a young man to learn more about his grandfather, who loaded bombs and set the timer during the war.

"I thought the Korean War Memorial was outstandingly beautiful; it showed a lot of honor to those men who served," said John Slunecka from Sioux Falls, S.D. "I took a picture of a bomber plane featured on the memorial wall, so I am going to show my grandpa the picture. I have a new appreciation for what he did, and I am going to ask him about his service when I go home."

Today’s activities include a visit to Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Memorial, and party conventions.