The whirlwind four-day trip to our nation’s capital for the Illinois Valley Central Marching Grey Ghosts was filled with plenty of sights, sounds and emotions.

Beginning bright and early on July 2, the journey began for approximately 75 students and included stops to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Wall and Arlington National Cemetery.

IVC Director of Bands Matt Chapman said the students thought the trip’s first stop was neat because they got to see the history of a few of the bands they listened to when they were growing up.

“The purpose was to expose the kids to the beginnings of rock ‘n’ roll, so they could ask questions,” Chapman said. “There’s stuff in there from Taylor Swift. They had Michael Jackson’s glove, and stuff from the ’30s and ’40s to all the way until today.”

From Cleveland, they arrived in Washington, DC, a place that filled the trip with incredible emotional experiences.

At Arlington National Cemetery, the group had the honor and the privilege to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Chapman, who along with the Marching Grey Ghosts Drum Majors laid the wreath, said the experience was his personal favorite on the trip.

“There’s a different presence once you cross that line where nobody else is supposed to stand and we were able to stand there all through “Taps.” You felt it,” Chapman said. “I told the drum majors, after we had been instructed and we went around to where we were supposed to stand, was, ‘Take this really slow. Take it in. Understand where you’re stepping.’ And once we were done we got to go into — there’s a little museum under the amphitheater — for a moment and I said, ‘Think about where you just stood. Most presidents and only a few dignitaries have stood where you are standing.’ That blew them away. They were very emotional. I had a couple of them crying after it, it was that impactful. They were very proud to honor Chillicothe. They represented us, they represented the community, the school — there was just a lot of pride among them.”

Along with honoring Chillicothe, the moments laying wreath held another special meaning for Chapman.

“It was a moment I could really reflect on. I saw three markers in front of me and 1941-1945 was right in my view and my grandfather fought on D-Day, so I had a moment to reflect on him,” Chapman said. “He was wounded, so I had the chance to bring back those memories. He showed me where he was shot in the leg and he never much talked about it. And thinking of Owens, that was another thing I could reflect on and hearing “Taps” that way, very professional, that will stick in my mind forever.”

From the wreath laying ceremony, the group made a humbling walk to the gravesite of IVC Alumnus Senior Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens. To pay their respects, they laid flowers, held a moment of silence, the Drum Majors saluted and the group talked about his life.

“It was great to honor Ryan Owens. It was a touching moment for our kids and chaperones,” Chapman said. “ … Our kids were extremely respectful at honoring our community and our nation and understanding there are great people out there sacrificing and I felt that from our students.”

On the Fourth of July, the Marching Grey Ghosts took part in the National Independence Day Parade. With around 25 other bands performing, the Grey Ghosts marched and played through sweltering heat in front of thousands of people.

“The parade was just hundreds and hundreds of people watching us from all different ethnicities and it was really neat to see that — the cultures come together,” Chapman said.

This was the first time the school performed at the parade and Chapman said the group practiced around 16 hours before they embarked on the journey to ensure everything looked great.

“This was one of the biggest parades we’ve done and every time we played, the crowd was enthusiastic. It was great,” Chapman said.

The evening concluded with watching PBS’ “A Capitol Fourth” concert on the Capitol Lawn. Chapman explained that the experience was one of the group’s favorite on the trip.

“They got to hear the Beach Boys, the Blues Brothers, Trace Adkins. And then to sit and see the fireworks and all the cannons going off with over 500,000 other people it was definitely an enjoyable time,” Chapman said.

The whirlwind journey had one last stop at Six Flags before heading for home on July 5. The trip, which started being planned last October, was only made possible by the people behind the scenes Chapman pointed out.

“I would like to thank the people behind the scenes, our trip coordinator Karyn Terpstra and Chris Featherstone. Kevin Eberle donated the semi that drove all our stuff out there. We had so many volunteers. We had 17-18 chaperones that went. We had the Chillicothe Police Department come in with a canine unit and check our bags,” Chapman said. “We had a lot of people working behind the scenes to make this trip possible.”