Schaffer and seven other local students participated in the three-day trip which featured more than 30 area veterans and their spouses or family members. Over three days, starting Oct. 12, the group toured the Vietnam Veterans, Lincoln, Marine Corps, Korean War, World War II, Air Force, Pentagon and American Veterans Disabled for Life memorials in and near the nation’s capital.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I decided to take it,” said Schaffer, the son of Jason and Kim.
St. Paul art and theology teacher Christine Galati selected Schaffer along with sophomore Jackson Cook and senior Raquel Taggart. Norwalk High School science teacher Nate Whaley, an Army veteran, chose sophomores Braden Lloyd, Lochlyn Ramsey, Chanse Raymond, Cadence Scott and senior Olivia Schaffer.
The first stop was the hangar for the National Air and Space Museum near Washington Dulles International Airport. American Legion Post No. 177 in Fairfax, Va. hosted the veterans and students for a buffet dinner that night — complete with a color guard as they entered the building.
The group had lunch Saturday afternoon at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington. The trip ended Sunday morning with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.
Jarret Schaffer had been to D.C. for his eighth-grade trip, but he said that experience didn’t compare to this one. Echoing what he told the group on the bus Sunday while headed back to Ohio, he noted he lacked the maturity years ago to fully appreciate the memorials.
During the trip, Schaffer took time to talk to and connect with several veterans, specifically Richard Pheiffer and Bryan Brown. Both men served in the U.S. Army.
“I thought it was very neat,” Schaffer said. “You have a lot to learn from these people.”
Reflecting on talking to Brown, the teenager said he had some of the “deepest and longest conversations” he’d had with anyone. Schaffer added that it was easy to connect with Pheiffer since his grandson, Griffin Schwan — the son of Patrick and Nickie — also is a St. Paul junior.
His favorite memorials were at the Pentagon, which a plane crashed into during the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and the World War II Memorial. While at the WWII memorial, Schaffer spoke briefly with retired Kansas Sen. Bob Dole.
“I especially liked the World War II Memorial,” said Schaffer, who appreciated the small monuments representing the 50 states surrounding a large fountain. “I thought it was a beautiful monument.”