Friday, July 23, 2010

44,000 Friends!

So many new shows and art events are happening around our county, but alas, I will not be able to review them for several weeks. Visit Artwach for his commentary while I take a break and do my part for the youth of America and our nation’s future generation of leaders. This is my last post until August 5th. With that in mind, I wanted to take a moment to explain where I am going and why.

Fort A.P Hill Virginia, one of our US Army bases, will become the 5th largest city in the State of Virginia within the next 48 hours. This is the last time our BSA National Jamboree will be held here so it is with some sadness that I realize I may not do this job ever again. The 2005 Jamboree was a life altering experience for me and many in our Scouting family. 4 adult leaders died in a tragic and gruesome accident witnessed by their sons and other youth from the state of Alaska. As prepared as we are, trained in first aid and other such needs, no one was able to save them, only to save the lives of those who tried to come to their aid and would have died as well in the process. The details are not necessary. A few short days later, more than 3000 people, mostly youth, were overcome by heat in yet another tragic situation. No one died from a direct result of the circumstances, but lives were forever changed, mine in particular. I was on adjunct security duty that day. What I saw will never leave me. I was finally moved to tears when I saw soldiers carrying young boys in their arms, loading them onto the Secret Service staff bus that has been commandeered as a giant ambulance. Medivac helicopters dropped to the ground one after the other scooping up people on makeshift stretchers, their ground blades barely touching the earth before flying away. I allowed myself one “mom” moment before clicking back into leadership mode and helping scoutmasters locate their missing youth. In the mass evacuation process, groups and gotten separated and all 44,000 needed to be accounted for.

Earlier in the Jamboree itself, a major storm ripped apart our Merit Badge Midway where my Art Merit Badge booth was located. Supplies, displays, equipment and so forth were scattered and soaked. I tried to help in the wind and rain to capture and secure what I could from other booths but at some point was literally put into an SUV and told to go back to my barracks. Later, one of the old scouters brought me some photos of my space. I cried again, all that work destroyed so I thought. But no, scouts are natural helpers. The next day he and his crew helped me make it all right again. But he had cried too, right along with me the night before in order to make a point to me that everything is a matter of perspective. On a stoop, in the soggy misty humid remnants of the storm, he told me about his three days in a raft in the Pacific Ocean watching his buddies die one after the other. He told me about the military guy who came down from a helicopter on a rope with supplies and such until a proper rescue could be orchestrated. He told the young man to get back on that rope and save himself as were his orders. But the young soldier refused and he stayed with my injured friend, saving his life in the long run. The rest of the story is not mine to tell but his point to me was well made.

I could go on and on with such stories from that 2005 Jamboree. As I head out to the 2010 Jamboree in 101 degree heat, this time with my own staff along for the ride, I keep in my heart the advice that was given to me last time when I was a lone staffer. I am about to join 44,000 of my closest friends, I just have not met them yet.

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