Tour of Mount Vernon helps Families of deployed
August 25, 2011
Spouses and Family members of deployed Soldiers had a chance to learn and have some fun Saturday as they toured Mount Vernon.
Army Community Service's Mobilization and Deployment Program set up the tour as its quarterly activity.
The two-hour tour took the Families through President George Washington's house; to the tomb where he and his wife, Martha, are interred; and eventually onto the Spirit of Mount Vernon for a ride on the Potomac River.
As much as it was educational, the tour also gave the Families a chance to get their minds off of their deployed family member.
"It was a very thoughtful thing that ACS put together," said April Lee. "It is interesting to see how well the Army has progressed, as far as paying attention to the Family members while the spouses are away and doing events like this. It definitely helps make the time go by a lot quicker. I feel more a part of the Belvoir community when there are events like this."
The Families saw a memorial statue at Mount Vernon for the slaves that Washington owned. Howard University dedicated the statue Sept. 21, 1983.
During a wreath-laying ceremony at Washington's tomb, the children of the deployed Soldiers were asked to stand by the wreath as the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, followed by applause for the children, at the request from John Marshall, Mount Vernon guest services manager.
"I did not expect it, so I just thought it was beautiful," said Tina Hoffman, volunteer in the Mobilization and Deployment program. "Of course, it meant the most to the adults that were there seeing it and I thought the people that weren't even involved in our tour were cheering them on and I saw other military Families standing with a tear in their eye knowing what we are going through."
Jarens Banks whose husband, Air Force Capt. Darrell Banks, is deployed to Afghanistan, said she enjoyed learning that green was Washington's favorite color, as it is her favorite color, too. She also found other aspects of his life to be interesting.
"I think the most interesting thing was the key from France that was given to him as a gift for him being a symbol of the father of liberty," said Banks.
Lyletha Hawkins was visiting Mount Vernon for the third time, but said this visit was by far the most informative.
"This is by far the best because it was a guided tour and I got more out of it," said Hawkins. "I learned that Howard University donated the slave statue area. I never knew it existed before today."
Hoffman said Marshall let her know he would love to do another tour for Families of deployed Soldiers and that the mobilization program has had talks with Mount Vernon's community relations department about a potential Christmas activity.
"They do special candlelight Christmas tours here, and we were thinking about a spouse- or adult member-only tour for them," said Hoffman.
She also said she was pleased to see that several of the Families who came on Saturday are repeat MDR event attendees.
"We love to see the repeats that are coming out," said Hoffman. "It really makes my job worthwhile."