Graveside Moment at Arlington Touches Mother, Son, and Our Team Too
For eighth grader Curtis Blackmon, his recent WorldStrides trip to D.C. wasn’t just an opportunity to visit the nation’s most important sites with his classmates. It was also a chance to visit a site that is central to his family – the final resting place of his father, Major Franklin Blackmon, Jr.
Major Blackmon died when Curtis was very young, and he and his mother talked with Program Leader David Russi about their desire to have Curtis visit his father’s grave at Arlington before they departed for Washington D.C. Mr. Russi shared with his WorldStrides team, and found a kindred spirit in Course Leader Bing Spitler, who is an Army veteran himself.
Bing not only carved time out of the itinerary to bring the whole group to Major Blackmon’s grave, but brought flowers and pennies for the students to lay on the tombstone. He shared a poem he’d written called “War Angels” to mark the moment.
“The flowers were from one soldier to another,” Bing explained. “The pennies on the gravestone were provided to the students to indicate that they had visited the grave site. It’s a tradition that goes back to ancient Greece as a means of paying the ‘ferryman’ to take the deceased across the River Styx from the land of the living to the land of the dead.”
Curtis sent a photo home to his mom, Christine, who shared her gratitude in a Facebook post that went viral, and was even covered on the local news.
Curtis said returning to Arlington was very special for him, and he was proud that it was meaningful to his fellow students to learn about his father’s legacy. “It just means a lot….I could see in my classmates that they could tell it was not just tombstones, but a person,” he recalled.
“We are very proud of my late husband and never miss an opportunity to keep him alive in our hearts and minds,” Christine later told us at WorldStrides. “The kindness shown by his teacher and your agency just touched me greatly.”
The feeling is mutual, Christine. Our team is proud to have been a part of this extraordinary moment!