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Lansing’s Vinny VanDeel participates in wreath-laying ceremony at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Illiana senior class trip to Washington, DC, provides unique educational opportunities

by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (October 21, 2022) – It’s an annual tradition for Illiana seniors to travel to Washington, DC, and spend their class trip learning about government and history. In fact, it’s Illiana’s longest-running tradition, dating back to sometime in the 1950s.

A highlight of the class trip is visiting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Four students are selected to represent their class and lay a wreath at the tomb. This year Lansing resident Vinny VanDeel was one of the four.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
“Fantastic day with the Class of 2023,” wrote Illiana history teacher Jeff White in an October 20 Facebook post. “Here is a picture of the 4 students who represented their class by presenting a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” Lansing resident Vinny VanDeel is on the left. (Photo provided by Jeff White)

As the Arlington Cemetery website explains, “Laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has long been a way for individuals and organizations to honor the sacrifices of American service members. Presidents, politicians, public figures and foreign dignitaries have all paid their respects in this way.”

The timing of the class trip allowed Illiana seniors to be in DC on the same day as the last Honor Flight of the season, October 19. Honor Flight Chicago captured photos of the students greeting the Honor Flight participants and posted it to their Facebook page, tagging Illiana in the description.

class trip
Honor Flight Chicago photographers captured Illiana seniors greeting the veterans of the October 19 Honor Flight. (Clicking the image will open the post on

As a surprise bonus, Lansing resident Dr. Ben Hoekstra was one of the Honor Flight participants on that trip. Hoekstra is an Illiana alum and had a dental practice in Lansing for many years.

Lansing’s “Doc Hoekstra,” center, is an Air Force veteran who participated in Honor Flight on the same day Illiana seniors visited Washington, DC. (Photo: Jeff White)

The 88 seniors involved in this year’s class trip arrived in DC on Wednesday, October 19. They are scheduled to return home Saturday, October 22.

Illiana Christian High School is located at 10920 Calumet Avenue in Dyer, Indiana.

Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.


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