ROCKINGHAM – Neither rain, nor cold, nor the gloom of a dreary day could stay the Den 1 Cub Scouts of Rockingham’s Pack 1215 from its appointed date with a lesson in military history Saturday morning.
And members of the VFW Rockingham Post 4203 were happy to oblige the eagerness of the young Scouts to learn about the nation’s military campaigns and the men and women who sacrificed so much to ensure their freedom.
“They called and asked about coming out to the grounds to learn about the memorials,” said Post Commander Larry Evans. “So, we were glad to come out and tell them what we could.”
Of course, when the request was made a month or so ago, weather conditions were a bit more accommodating than they were on Saturday: temperatures in the mid-30s with a cold drizzle coming and going throughout the morning.
“We called them this morning to ask, considering the weather, if they were still coming,” said Evans.
“Scouts are always prepared,” Nadine Samuel retorted, “so we will be there.”
“Us old vets don’t necessarily handle the cold as well as these youngsters,” Evans reminded her, “but if you come, we will be here to talk to your boys.”
And all parties were indeed true to their word, despite the cold weather. Commander Evans was joined by his wife, Eileen. Also joining them were Iraq/Afghanistan veterans Eddie Dean and Mike Cauley, VFW Auxiliary President Robin Roberts, Senior Vice President Denita Cauley and Vietnam veteran Larry Veach (as well as service dog “Rinny” who, seemingly oblivious to the harsh elements – was quite enthusiastic in his role of “meet and greet mascot”).
Under the guidance and leadership of den mothers Samuel and Jessica McLendon, along with Samuel’s husband Elliot, several of the Scouts braved the elements to venture out to the Rockingham VFW.
As part of their required fulfillment of a “show of reverence adventure footstep,” the den members were seemingly in awe (and subsequently demonstrated a noteworthy degree of reverence, especially considering that they are only six or seven years of age).
After a welcome, Commander Evans provided a descriptive overview of the VFW Memorial Grounds, explaining how it has grown from “nine or 10” individual memorial stones to over 300 since the original charter in 1945, and how the area has been substantially expanded to accommodate the markers.
Each of the seven war memorials was addressed individually with informative histories of the respective wars, and particular aspects of such being represented. Eileen Evans provided an abridged history World War II (of which her father was a veteran), followed by Denita Cauley’s review of the Iwo Jima memorial (which was just added to the grounds this past Memorial Day).
Dean discussed the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns against terrorism, followed by Commander Evans’ description of the significance of the respective memorials for the wars in Vietnam and Korea. Mike Cauley offered a review of the significance of the “Battlefield Cross” Memorial, followed by Roberts’ insight regarding all branches of the United States military.
The Scouts were then escorted to an up-close and personal inspection of the resident M60-A1 tank on site. Vietnam veteran Veach gave an excellent review on the capabilities and details of this 1950s-era weapon.
Veach indicated that the M60 was 52 tons of metal carrying a crew of 4 at a top speed of 20 to 22 m.p.h. Armed with a 120 millimeter gun and 50 caliber machine gun (along with the capability to produce its own smoke screen), the M60 was, in its day, one of the most formidable (and useful) pieces of equipment that the Army had in its possession.
“When it was replaced by the Abrams, the government sold the surplus tanks all over the world,” said Veach, noting that, though it may be old, the M60 still has some significant firepower.
Scouts Joseph Johnson, Ari McLendon, and Elliot Samuel IV each reported a fulfilling and educational morning, thanks to the VFW members.
“My dad was in the Navy,” said Johnson, age 7, who noted that the tank was his favorite part of the morning.
“My dad was in the Navy and the Army,” echoed Elliot, who evidently “liked everything” about the VFW tour.
“These kids are the next generation of us,” noted Commander Evans, “so we owe it to them – and to those who served – to make sure they know what the military has had to do to make the United States what it is today.”