Local teen lays wreath at Tomb of the Unknowns
For Centennial High School senior Reagan Ellison, 4-H has brought a lot of opportunities. Most recently, after winning a state 4-H competition, the teen traveled to Washington, D.C., with a group of other 4-H competitors, where she was selected to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Winning the state competition and getting the chance to represent Johnson County and travel to the nation’s capital was a huge honor for Ellison.
“I got the chance to go on this leadership conference by winning state for my record book, which is based on citizenship,” Ellison said. “That has been my main project for 4-H, besides raising cattle and showing pigs.”
According to Ellison, citizenship is where her roots lie.
“It’s about being a good citizen, fulfilling your duties by voting, doing community service, respecting the members of our military,” said Ellison. “I try to be involved with the community and give back.”
It’s that notion of service above self that caused Ellison to be selected to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. The tomb was dedicated in 1921 when Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I (www.arlingtoncemetary.mil). Since then, soldiers from World War II, Korea and Vietnam have been buried there.
“Four of us were selected to lay the wreath,” Ellison said. “Three of the kids had family members who were in the service. I was selected, but no one told me why. I didn’t want to take this away from anyone. I later found out I was selected because of my citizenship book.”
It felt ‘surreal’ walking up to the Tomb, Ellison said.
“The importance behind it was so significant,” she said. “The guards, which stand watch 365 days a year, 24-hours a day, take their job very seriously. Seeing them and the looks on their faces as we were lining up, that’s when it really hit me.”
The teens were instructed how to walk to the Tomb in formation and carefully place the wreath on the grave, Ellison said.
“Actually laying the wreath made everything else seem so small,” said Ellison. “It made all other problems seem irrelevant. I’m blessed that these people volunteered for me and my rights.”
However, it wasn’t all seriousness for Ellison and her cohorts on their trip. The group of Texas teens were treated to a tour of the capitol by Senator Ted Cruz’s office, a twilight tour of the monuments, a tour of the Pentagon as well as the Smithsonian Natural History Museum and the Ford Theater.
Ellison, who hopes to one day go to law school, also got to speak with senators aides.
Ellison is hoping that all of her hard work with 4-H will pay off in the form of a college scholarship.
“I’ve been accepted to Texas A&M University, where I want to get my undergraduate degree in agricultural economics,” she said. “I then plan on going to the Bush School of Government and getting a master’s degree in public affairs, then going on to law school.”
Ellison chartered her chapter of 4-H in Burleson and the payoff has been big.
“Ours wasn’t the first group, but it was the most recent,” said Ellison. “I got people involved and we are based on community service, not animals. There is so much more to 4-H than animals.”
The trip to Washington D.C. has been the highlight of the teen’s 4-H career.
“Texas 4-H has opened up the door for me and my future,” Ellison said. “It’s given me so many opportunities. Laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns will be something I remember forever.”