When Altona Middle School's eighth-graders met President Barack Obama earlier this month, the entire country knew it.
But few people knew that when those students laid wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial, they were thinking of veterans they met before the trip.
During the veterans' first visit to Altona, Ed Day mentioned that he has never seen the Vietnam memorial, on which his younger brother's name is engraved.
Stephen Day, a private in the U.S. Army, was killed Dec. 2, 1966, in Vietnam, a few miles away from where Ed Day was himself fighting. Stephen Day was posthumously awarded a Distinguished Service Cross
To honor Stephen Day's memory -- as well as Ed Day's service -- student Adam Schane made a rubbing of Stephen Day's engraved name and teacher Linda Goertz took a picture of it when the students visited the Vietnam War Memorial.
On Tuesday, Ed Day and seven other local veterans visited with the 50 students who traveled to Washington, D.C., and New York City over spring break.
Student Cole Howard presented the framed photo and rubbing to Ed Day.
To prepare for their trip, the Altona eighth-graders each studied a site in either Washington or New York, then taught a lesson on that location to their classmates.
"I don't want them to say, 'This is cool; now what?'" Goertz said. She also works with the same tour guide every year, who calls on the students to add their information to his during the tours.
The students on Tuesday also presented each veteran with a picture of an Altona student laying the wreath at the appropriate memorial, as well as a red carnation.
The men, obviously touched, hugged the students.
Courtney Howell, 14, said the World War II Memorial was "just a stunning site."
Her mind reeled, she said, with the thought of what the men endured. Seeing the memorials and meeting the men have inspired her, she said.
"I learned a sense of patriotism from them," Courtney said. "What can I do to serve my country like these men have?"
"I went to every memorial and said 'Thank you,'" 13-year-old Bailee Cruger said. She knows she has a chance to be a better person because of the veterans, she added.
"I was able to go on this trip because people like them gave their lives for us," she said. "That's a pretty powerful sacrifice."