By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
As the nation prepares for another birthday, a group of Bowling Green girls will celebrate this Fourth of July with new knowledge about their government.
Members of Girl Scout Troop 10799 recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., where they crammed in as many tours and sightseeing stops as possible in four days.
They learned that George Washington didn’t smile for portraits because his artificial teeth would fall out.
“He was a great leader, but his teeth … not so great,” said Girl Scout Natalie Hollands.
They learned that while the Senate chambers is a serious and somber place, the House of Representatives is raucous and chaotic.
“You could hear a pin drop in the Senate,” said Allie Parish.
But not the House. “It was really crazy,” Paige Suelzer said. The leader kept banging the gavel for quiet. “They were like little kids.”
And they learned that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is no place for giggling – even if one of their little sisters drops a water bottle that rolls close to the feet of the soldier on guard.
Thirteen Bowling Green Girl Scouts, who will be entering sixth grade this fall, toured the city with their families. They visited the memorials to Lincoln, Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr., the memorials to those who served in the Vietnam War and those killed in the 9/11 attacks. They toured the East Wing of the White House, the Capitol Building, and the Pentagon.
The girls all had their favorite sites. For Sophia Nelson, a big fan of Abraham Lincoln, her favorites were the Ford Theatre and the Petersen House, where Lincoln was taken after being shot.
For Allie, it was the American National History Museum, where the huge flag is displayed that inspired the writing of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
For Natalie Hollands, it was the White House, which the girls toured just hours after the shooting at the Republican baseball practice.
For Reagan Otley, it was the Lincoln Memorial – though as you might guess, her favorite president is Ronald Reagan.
For Paige, it was the Capitol, where the Scouts witnessed a rare event.
“They saw something that rarely happens,” said Kristin Otley, Reagan’s mom. The House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing the valor of those who responded to the shootings at the baseball practice. “They passed a resolution unanimously and with a standing ovation.”
“It was like we were in the middle of history,” Natalie said.
The trip inspired some of the Scouts to set pretty high goals.
“She’s going to be like the first girl president of the U.S.,” Sophia said pointing to Allie. “And I’m going to be her vice president.”
Allie had previously planned to be an astronaut or an Olympian, but switched courses after seeing Washington, D.C. “I decided I wanted to be president,” she said.
The war memorials also had an impact on the young girls. While they were at the World War II memorial, an Honor Flight tour arrived and the Scouts cheered their service. Sophia took time to do the math, with each star representing 100 U.S. soldiers killed in WWII. She counted 200 stars, times 16 rows, times 100.
“It was a sad realization,” Sophia said.
The 9/11 memorial was also a somber site, with benches for each victim arranged in order of their ages.
Reagan was particularly struck by the Iwo Jima flag-raising memorial, and George Washington’s home. “Mount Vernon was cool. George Washington’s mansion was huge.”
The girls toured the Pentagon, where a Marine and sailor were required to keep their eyes on the visitors at all times. “The Marine in front of us had to walk backwards for more than 1.5 miles during the tour,” Natalie said.
There were some light moments – like the four Starbucks in the Pentagon, the brief sighting of Sean Spicer in the White House, and Reagan’s inability to stifle sneezes. “I got nicknamed ‘Sneezy’ by the Secret Service,” she said.
The Scouts also got to meet with their congressman, Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green. He gave them a history lesson about nation’s capital, including the burning of the Capitol building. “All I know is that the British did it,” Reagan said.
They also toured the Kennedy Center, where they viewed treasured archives like the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. “I’m surprised you could still see ink on those things,” Reagan said.
According to Alisa Suelzer, Paige’s mom, the trip will be something the girls remember for a long time. “Everything they learned in Social Studies came to life,” she said.
Allie agreed. “We can read about the Iwo Jima memorial all you want, but it’s not like seeing it for real.”
Otley said Scouts were very fortunate to be able to experience all the close-up views of the nation’s capital. “The gravity of a lot of it hit them later,” she said. “Not everybody gets to see these parts of D.C.”