Denison High School students saw the landmarks and icons of their history textbooks come to life last week, with a four day trip to Washington, D.C.

DHS teacher David Bullard traveled with 18 students from his history and government classes to the nation’s capital for an all out blitz of events and tours. The group attended the inauguration of President Donald Trump, perused three different Smithsonian Museums, watched the the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery and much more.

“We started touring the second we hit the ground,” Bullard said. “And still, four days was not enough.”

Bullard explained that the group traveled by air from Dallas to D.C., and then from site to site by bus with several other student groups and the guidance of a touring company. He said the trip was a year in the making and the opportunity to attend a major presidential ceremony was simply too good to pass up.

“This was a once in a lifetime chance to see an inauguration, the peaceful transfer of power,” Bullard said. “So, I decided it didn’t matter who was going to be president. I was going to take a group and we were going.”

But getting into the inauguration and onto the National Mall was not without a little difficulty. The history and government teacher said long lines and multiple security checkpoints made for a long and uncertain morning.

“We walked 13 miles and I was worried even then that we weren’t going to make it in,” Bullard said. “But we made it in and with just a few minutes before it started.”

And the group arrived to the inauguration in style — or at least senior Jackson Keese did.

“I wore an American flag shirt and American flag socks,” Keese said. “It was a pretty great outfit.”

Keese and fellow classmate Madison Poe said the inauguration was well attended and the atmosphere was one full of excitement and patriotic pride. Poe said seeing the inauguration first-hand was an incredible experience and one she felt fortunate to have been a part of.

“I think it was cool just getting to witness history,” Poe said. “It’s something not a whole lot of people get to do.”

As a teacher, Bullard said the trip to D.C. allowed him too to do something he rarely can: take his students out of the classroom and to the capital city, where so much American history is made and memorialized.

“I can talk to them about history until I’m blue in the face, but when they see it right there before them, it sticks,” Bullard said.

And while the grand scale of the inauguration certainly made an impression on the group, a chance encounter with a fellow visitor proved to be just as meaningful. As the group made its way through Arlington National Cemetery, Bullard said he and the students noticed a man at the Battle of the Bulge Memorial inside the cemetery.

“He was so frail, but he stood up out of his wheelchair and saluted,” Bullard said. “It was moving.”

Bullard said the man was a veteran of both the Battle of the Bulge and World War II, there to pay his respects to the nation’s fallen service members. The group spent roughly half an hour listening to the veteran, learning about the battle and his life. Bullard said it was the likely highlight of the group’s trip.

With the students back in Denison, Bullard said he was already looking forward to his next trip to Washington and to give a new group of students the chance to see just how deep and rich our nation’s history is.

“American history is so much more complex than what we’re able to teach them in the short time we have,” Bullard said. “I think D.C. really opens their eyes.”