By Russ Fulcher
When I was 17 years old, I was blessed with the honor of a lifetime: the opportunity to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. At the time I was one of two Idaho delegates elected by peers to visit Washington, DC for the student government training program, Boys Nation.
The American Legion sponsored the program, along with its local predecessor, Boys State. Two representatives per state were selected and were housed at American University. Early one morning prior to an Independence Day ceremony, I was greeted in my dorm room (unannounced) by three uniformed military officers.
They told me I had been “recruited” for duty, to place a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was an order, not a request. When I asked “Why me,” I was told that no native Idahoan had ever fulfilled such duty, and protocol dictated that over time every state must be represented by a native-born wreath layer. I was never able to validate that statement, but the officers communicated that Wyoming was in the same situation, so a Wyoming delegate (pictured next to me in white) was also “recruited.” My only qualification was that I was a native-born Idahoan. But I had a problem: I had no suit. I thought it would be dishonorable to perform such a task in jeans and a T-shirt! Thankfully, I was granted 15 minutes to run dorm to dorm trying to find a colleague about my size that had a suit I could borrow. The experience changed my life.