Boys Nation senators visit the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial. Photo by Charlie Tucker

Boys Nation senators visit National Mall

For additional Boys Nation highlights from day three, click here.

Sunday morning at Boys Nation got under way with a non-denominational memorial service that was conducted by a handful of Boys Nation senators and staff. The service featured prayer, a memorial address from American Legion National Chaplain John Beaver, singing of patriotic songs and the dedication of a wreath that will be placed on the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery today.

Senators from each of the four sections placed a flag on the wreath. They were (Adams) Tro Panosian from Scottsdale, Ariz.; (Jefferson) John Carroll from Billings, Mont.; (Madison) Ronald Terry-Taylor from Hempstead, N.Y.; and (Washington) Nathan Fewel from Santa Clara, Utah.

After the memorial service, realistic senate sessions were held to allow the young men to vote and pass bills while learning the workings of the U.S. Senate. "The senate session was the most realistic thing I've experienced in terms of Congress and the way bills are passed," said David Holmes, Baton Rouge, La. "Everyone was into expressing their opinions, and it even got a little heated like it does in real life."

Before votes could be cast, the young men within the four senate committees presented their bills to the senate officers who governed the session. Once all bills were presented, the assignment and calendar committee decided what bills would have the most impact and which ones should be presented to the senate committee members for a vote.

Committee members convened within their groups to vote on the bills; some bills never made it to the senate floor, while others were rejected or passed. Overall, three bills passed Sunday, with more to follow.

"It was cool to see the opinions of our generation and to see kids our age bring up bills that we will actually see in the future," said Zeke Chavez of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In addition to voting on bills, a Federalist and Nationalist conventions were held to formulate policies and to hear president and vice president nominations. The meetings were administered by the convention chairman for each party, as senators stood on the podium to present their nomination speech for president or vice president. The electing of the two positions within each party is today

The past two days have enabled the senators to reveal their leadership qualities, and Sunday was no different. Minutes before a video was to be played on who the Legion is and what it does, the power went out due to a severe storm. However, the pitch black auditorium didn't bring chaos. Instead, the young men sang everything from patriotic songs to "Lean on Me," "Amazing Grace," "My Girl " and more.

Once the storm passed, it was time for the senators to leave campus and take their first field trip to Maryland's Greenbelt Post 136 for dinner. The post's Legion family members proudly stood outside the post in a receiving line to shake each senator's hand. The keynote speaker for the dinner was American Legion National Commander Clarence Hill, who also stood at the head of the receiving line before he addressed the young men and answered their questions.

"Boys Nation is one of The American Legion's premier programs," Hill said. "You represent the best this nation has to offer. And my take-home message for you today, and for the rest of your lives, is to love America."

During dinner, the senators were able to casually speak with the post's Legion family members, thanks to at least one of them being at every table. And after dinner, the young men gave a warm thank you to Post 136 by singing "America Chant," which helped energize their evening trip to the National Mall.

The National Mall brought forth breathtaking scenery, as the memorials were beautifully lit. The senators and staff emotionally reflected upon the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial, touching the inscribed names of the men who lost their lives fighting for freedom. For many senators, it was a humbling moment when they saw their reflection in the memorial, especially knowing that many Boys Nation staff are Vietnam War veterans.

Following a path throughout the Mall, the senators reached the Lincoln Memorial and climbed the steep stairs to take photos of Lincoln's statue, as well as the Reflecting Pool. From there, they visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial, where they ran their fingers over the faces of soldiers who fought.

"I'm really impressed and amazed by all the great people who gave their lives and their time for this country," said Daniel Rosenfeld from Richmond, Va. "Going to the memorials really makes you cognitive of how much they gave to help our country, and it gives you something tangible to think about, to touch, to feel and to see."