Culpeper Middle School students learned about the sacrifices made to help keep our country free during a trip to Culpeper National Cemetery Monday.
Culpeper Middle School history teachers Sully Carter and Mackenzie Holt brought three separate groups of seventh graders to the cemetery to teach them about the ultimate cost given by U.S. soldiers.
“A lot of them have never been to this cemetery,” Carter said. “They don’t really understand the importance of it, of burying Union soldiers. A lot of kids live right here in town and know this is right across the tracks.”
The Culpeper National Cemetery was originally started in the 1800s, after the Civil War, as a resting ground for Union soldiers. Now, soldiers from the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam and conflicts as recent as Afghanistan rest here just over the railroad tracks on the East side of town.
Matthew Priest, Director, Culpeper, Winchester, Staunton, Balls Bluff National Cemeteries, said it’s important to give the younger generation a sense of patriotism and let them know that Culpeper is the resting place of the nation’s heroes.
“It’s good to have the community come out and even greater to have the younger population to see how we memorialize our veterans, our heroes,” Priest said. “Everything these people have done for our country is astonishing and we should be constantly grateful for all of it.”
Carter said his class is at the end of the U.S. History 2 curriculum which starts at the end of the Civil War and runs through the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam.
Earlier in the year, the class took a trip to the Marine Corp Museum but this was a much more sobering venture.
“There you see the glory of fighting, but here you see ultimate sacrifice,” Carter said. “It’s a very good combination.”
On Monday, Jase Pickering sat, taking notes next to the gravesite for George Richard, a World War II veteran who passed away in 1995.
Having that connection to the past resonated with Pickering.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Jase Pickering said.
Annabelle Lunsford said her family members have served in the armed forces and she has been to Culpeper National Cemetery before.
“You get to see the sacrifices they made and get to thank them for risking their lives for us,” Annabelle Lunsford said.
She said this was more touching than the visit to the Marine Corp Museum.
“This is a little more said,” Lunsford said. “It reminds us what we have to do to stay safe and have our freedoms.”
Carter said this is the first trip the seventh graders have taken to the cemetery in three years, the last being coordinated by his mentor Toni Sheads, who retired from teaching.
Priest said he hopes to continue the visits, as he smiled looking at the enthusiastic seventh graders exploring the cemetery.
“It is great to have the younger generation see this and see the sacrifice it takes to enjoy the basic freedoms we have,” Priest said.