Story and photos courtesy of Jason Fulton

Accompanied by 11 chaperones,43 students from Azalea Middle School and Brookings-Harbor High School ended the school year by visiting the nation's capital.

The group also visited sites in nearby Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

This was the fifth trip in five years that Azalea Middle School teacher Jason Fulton organized for the benefit of students in the Brookings-Harbor area.

The trip lasted eight days with the first three days touring the Washington, D.C., area.

While in Washington, the students toured the White House, where only 1,000 people are admitted each day, compared to 10,000 that were allowed prior to 9/11. They also had a private tour of the Capitol building where the students received a staff-led tour and met Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith.

andquot;Our state senator shows us that he actually does this for the people of the state of Oregon,andquot; stated student Brittani Bristow.

Other points of interest were the vast array of memorials and monuments.

Washington tour guide Larry Middleton explained the importance of each memorial as the students took in the sights.

andquot;Larry does such an awesome job explaining and teaching about each monument, said Kristi Fulton, wife of the tour organizer. andquot;He definitely enriches every life he touches. We have been extremely lucky to have him as our guide for the past five years.andquot;

Nightlife in Washington was always busy. The students were able to attend a theater performance at the Kennedy Center titled andquot;Shear Madness.andquot; The students dressed in their best attire.

andquot;My favorite thing was the performance of 'Shear Madness,' said student Hannah Fallert. andquot;We got to get dressed up. It was fun going to a big event like that.andquot;

They also attended the evening performance of andquot;Twilight Tattoo,andquot; a show focusing on the timeline of U.S. Army history from the Revolution to the present conflict in Iraq.

After leaving Washington, the students traveled to Mount Vernon, home and burial site of George Washington. Mount Vernon is a working farm, with gardens and areas set up to show how life was back during the beginning of the nation.

Four of Azalea's students were able to participate in a wreath laying ceremony at Washington's burial site. The four students led the group in a ceremony that included the pledge, done by Kara Miller, the laying of the wreath by Jennifer Sirchuk and Amber Rackham and the conclusion of the prayer by Justin Konkel.

andquot;The students represented Azalea and the community of Brookings-Harbor wonderfully.andquot; Kristi Fulton said.

The group then made their way to Christ's Church, where every president has attended a service at some point in their presidential term. The students were then treated to a view of the Alexandria area from the viewing area at the top of the 400-foot George Washington Masonic Lodge.

The group next traveled to Baltimore where they were able to visit Fort McHenry, the site where the Star Spangled Banner was flown and the poem/song was written.

From there the group traveled west where they toured the Antietam Battlefield, site of the bloodiest day in American history, Sept. 17, 1862, when there were more than 23,000 casualties, including dead, wounded or missing.

The group also traveled to Gettysburg where they toured the battlefield and viewed the Cyclorama, a 50-foot high, 400-foot circumference painting done by Paul Philippoteaux in 1883. The painting depicts the final day during Pickett's charge.

The students, under the direction of Jason Fulton, traveled back in time where they took on the role of Confederate soldiers. The students and chaperones lined up and marched Pickett's charge, a one mile route from the Confederate line to the Federal line. Through the 4 1/2 feet of high grass, wild flowers and wheat, the students marched shoulder to shoulder, crossing two fences and a road, shouting, andquot;Virginia, Virginia,andquot; just as on that fateful day on July 3, 1863.

andquot;I had a blast,andquot; said student Cody Miller. andquot;It was weird to see how suicidal and how impossible of a charge it would have been.andquot;

The group then took a break and headed to Hershey, Pa., for a tour of Hershey Park. It included passes to ride on roller coasters, including two of the oldest wooden coasters.

The education didn't stop there, though, as the kids toured the factory where they learned how chocolate is produced. The tour then made its way back to the Washington where they finished up their eight day tour.

They walked through Arlington National Cemetery with Middleton, who pointed out particular grave sites and informed the students about the different areas of the cemetery. The students toured the Arlington house where Gen. Lee and his wife Mary Custis lived and where finally the U.S. Government kicked Mary out of the house for failure to pay the $91.65 due in back taxes.

While touring, the students came across the funeral of a high ranking official that included a 21-gun salute, 21-cannon salute and a jet fly-by. They were able to see the changing of the guard and wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Students Justine Dodgen, Mark Parmalee, Kyle Botnen and JT Haskins all took part in the wreath laying ceremony. One student, Kara Miller said, andquot;It made me realize how many people fight for what they believed in and they did it all for the people of this country.andquot;

Haskins said andquot;It meant a lot to me to participate in this ceremony.andquot; The remainder of the day they toured the Ford Theater where President Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot on April 14, 1865, by John Wilkes Booth. They then crossed the street to the Peterson house where Lincoln died the following morning.

The group also stopped off at three of the Smithsonian Museums. Jefferson and Iwo Jima memorials were on the plate for the day, as well, along with a ride on the Washington subway that travels underneath the Potomac River.

The students were in for a treat when they rode an elevator up to the top of the Washington Monument where there they caught views of the city.

Ending the tour was a visit to the World War II Memorial. Chaperone Molly Wales said, andquot;My dad just visited the memorial during the dedication on Memorial Day and to know what he went through and what he got out if it, what he shared with me and what those individuals did for us. ? It left me in an emotional state.andquot;

The trip was made possible with help from the Lines family of Sandamp;K Dollar Store, Ray's Food Place, Sandy's Country Kitchen, Tim Patterson and Cynthia Beaman of Redwood Theater, Napa Auto Parts, Rene Lamb of Chetco Federal Credit Union, Les Schwab, and other from the Brookings-Harbor community.