The POW/MIA table has been part of numerous JROTC ceremonies that Leo Ketcham participated in back home in Nevada.
But the activities at American Legion Boys Nation on Sunday and Monday helped cement the table’s importance and symbolism to Ketcham.
“You hear it all the time, but now I understand it. I understand what it means; I understand the importance of the memorial service,” Ketcham said after he and fellow Boys Nation senator Michael Scoville participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
“The honor to be able to be up there with the tomb guards, with (American Legion National Commander James ‘Bill’ Oxford), just being able to pay respect to the unknown soldiers was moving to me,” Ketcham said. “I felt like it was (something) I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.
“It changed the person I am, kind of, because I will always respect soldiers but this kind of helped me see the unknown soldier, the ones who didn’t come back or weren’t identified, the ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice though no one thanked them for it, because no one knows who they are, and this does. This thanks our unknown soldiers, those who lost their lives and those who just never came back,” Ketcham added.
Both senators acknowledged the emotions brought on not only by the wreath-laying Monday morning, but the memorial service at Marymount University on Sunday morning and Sunday night’s visit with American Legion Family members at Post 136 in Greenbelt, Md., and the visit to the memorials on the National Mall.
“I was lucky enough to hear both the national commander and (Boys Nation Director of Activities PNC Dale Barnett) talk about who they lost, and their own experiences, and I would not call it sadness, but a sort of somber respect and mourning for the people who have been lost. … It certainly made me view my own life differently in many ways,” Scoville said.
“Most of my family are veterans, and I’m incredibly blessed and lucky to have all of them survive. But they tell stories of people who didn’t, and being able to see them respected and remembered among the people, it brought me to tears putting that wreath down and being able to show my respect for those who have lost their lives. To be up there, I teared up, I very much appreciate the honor. It was definitely a formative moment in my life, I’m going to remember that for as long as I live,” added Scoville, a Massachusetts Boys Stater representing Illinois. Because of pandemic restrictions, 15 Boys State programs canceled or delayed their sessions this summer, so 30 senators from other states were randomly selected to represent those states.
The Boys Nation senators dedicated the wreath to be laid at the Tomb during Sunday’s memorial service. The POW/MIA table was part of that service, as well as the dinner with Post 136’s American Legion Family, which has now hosted the senators and staff of Boys Nation for 35 years.
Sunday night also included visits to the World War II Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall.
Also on Sunday, legislation continued to be introduced in the Boys Nation senate; president pro tempore Eddy Gonet appointed chief clerk Matthew Dowd (representing the District of Columbia), assistant clerk Nathan Badger (Idaho), sergeants-at-arms Ethan Williamson (Arizona) and Andrew Zhao (Massachusetts), parliamentarian Cato Chang (New York) and chaplain Matthew Ulmer (Iowa); and secretary of the senate Andrew Iskandar appointed assistant secretaries Sydney Wiredu Jr. (New Jersey) and Liam Reaser (Arizona).
Follow the happenings at American Legion Boys Nation at legion.org/boysnation and on YouTube at americanlegionHQ, and on social media on Twitter (@ALBoysNation) and Instagram (@theamericanlegion) with the hashtag #BoysNation75.