by Lacy Saye
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11th as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations." The legislature declared November 11th to be a legal holiday and later that year, President Eisenhower signed a bill to change the day to Veterans Day.
Now, almost 100 years later, we honor those who have served our country, along with those who are serving in the Armed Forces. Dion Price, a Marine Corps combat veteran, knows the importance of remembering and the value of serving. Dion continues to serve as he drives and guides school groups on their class trips to Washington, DC.
With each group, Dion shares a part of himself. “When I talk about the memorials, monuments, and museums, it’s an opportunity to enhance the history that they are taught in school and at home.”
Dion represents all the drivers and guides who work with School Tours of America. They carry with them the personal experiences and stories that make the DC experience more than just a tour. For Dion this is personal, “It is very important for me to do what I do because of the veterans that aren’t always discussed.” When Dion is guiding student tour groups, he fulfills the promise he made to the veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Arlington National Cemetery is Dion’s favorite place to take students and not just for the history and respect that is bestowed upon those hollowed grounds. Arlington is now a personal place of reverence for Dion, losing a member from his community and family, Sgt. Maj. Wardell Turner. Sgt. Maj. Turner died while serving overseas in Afghanistan and was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Speaking of this personal experience, “It’s a day I’ll never forget. I woke up with a heart full of pain, but because of the respect I’ve seen paid towards him that day in Arlington, that pain transitioned into a lot of pride.”
Dion understands the impact shared experiences such as this can have on students. As Dion so pointedly says, “You plant the seed and nurture it. You let it grow as it is meant to grow.” Dion knows this from personal experience as he too was impacted by renowned lecturer drivers and licensed tour guides Mr. Wendell Jones and Mr. Ernie Cartledge, as Dion respectfully calls them, and who are also veterans. Wendell and Ernie were recently honored by School Tours of America with a Lifetime Achievement Award. “They have certainly paved the way physically, mentally, and emotionally that gives me the opportunity to do what I’m doing now.”
Lecture drivers and licensed tour guides like Dion, Wendell and Ernie never stopped serving our country. They continued to serve us by educating our youth through their shared personal experiences. And for that we are eternally grateful to them.