As he and fellow American Legion Boys Nation Senator Yusef Kassem laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Monday morning, Rylan Cruise noticed something on the plaza.
Thanks to the steel shoetips and heels on the sentinels’ shoes, “you can see the rust lines from previous soldiers,” Cruise noted. “It just reminds me of how many people came before us, and just the honor it is to walk amongst them.
“It really made me feel small but in the best way possible, because we’re really a collection of people in America, all different types of people. And it just made me realize the togetherness we experience as Americans and just honoring people who came before us and the sacrifices they made because we can never honor them enough.”
North Carolina’s Cruise and Massachusetts’ Kassem were selected at random to represent Boys Nation in the wreath-laying ceremony the program participates in each year. They were joined Monday by National Commander Paul E. Dillard and National Chaplain Stanley Hamamoto.
Kassem admitted he was a little nervous. “But luckily the guards here did a great job walking me through the process, and I came out very happy with the result and with a great sense of awe at the moment,” he said.
Kassem said he’s excited to see how he and his fellow Boys Nation senators carry out their respect for veterans, especially those who gave their lives.
“Laying the wreath for me is a sign of laying down my own service as I move forward with Boys Nation and my life,” Kassem said.
“It was one of the greatest honors I’ll experience in my lifetime,” Cruise said. “Those soldiers gave so much for us, and to be able to be in the presence of other soldiers who are constantly honoring those who came before us and who died for us, it’s incredibly humbling. It just makes me want to do more.
“I really, really, really appreciate the veterans who came before us.”
After Monday morning’s visit to Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Memorial, Boys Nation senators turned their focus to the political process. Presidential and vice presidential candidates for the Federalist and Nationalist parties began their campaigns in earnest, while party conventions on Monday night were aimed at establishing each party’s platform.
Boys Nation will elect a president and vice president on Tuesday.
55 — The number of Boys Nation senators who entered the presidential and vice presidential races. Both parties started with 17 presidential candidates apiece. The Federalists had 12 vice presidential hopefuls while the Nationalists had 9.
Follow the happenings at American Legion Boys Nation at legion.org/boysnation, on YouTube at americanlegionHQ, and on social media on Twitter (@ALBoysNation) and Instagram (@theamericanlegion) with the hashtag #BoysNation2022.