Saturday, November 6, 2004

Scouts build, plant crosses for U.S. soldiers who died

By Reid Forgrave
Enquirer staff writer

Parents and volunteers plant nearly 1,300 crosses assembled by Cub Scout Troop 452 of St. Thomas More Church in Withamsville.
Photos by TONY JONES/The Enquirer

Tony Saylor, whose son Luke is a Cub Scout, plants a cross at Veterans Memorial Park on Friday.

The vision for the cemetery began in the mind of a fifth-grader.

Robby Herbolt was watching the evening news one night in September, and the newscaster, like most nights when the Clough Pike Elementary School student heard him talking, was reporting on soldiers who had died in Iraq.

Robby knew his Cub Scout unit - Pack 452 out of St. Thomas More Church in Union Township - was going to march in the Veterans Day parade, as they do every year. But he had a better idea.

Why not build a military cemetery to honor all these soldiers who have died in Iraq? Robby asked his mom.

Two months and 1,300 crosses later, Robby and a handful of Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts were at Union Township Veterans Park on Friday afternoon, planting the crosses - one for every American soldier who has died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The crosses, 18 inches tall and gleaming white, stand three feet apart and in perfect symmetry, at the recommendation of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

"We just want to honor all the people who died in Iraq," the 10-year-old Cub Scout said simply.

"I keep hearing of people dying, and I just wanted to do something to show respect."

On his muddy sweat shirt, Robby wears a military medal: "Freedom's Guardian."

It's not a pin commemorating soldiers serving in Iraq, though it just as easily could be.

The medal honors Robby's grandmother's brother, who died in the Korean War.

After Robby's mother, Regina Herbolt, suggested her son's idea to Cub Scouts and their parents, the cemetery plan gathered steam.

Military Cemetery Memorial Service for Americans who have died in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
When: Today at 2 p.m.
Where: Union Township Veterans Park, Clough Pike and Glen Este-Withamsville Road.
What: Veterans Day memorial service for the nearly 1,300 soldiers who have died in American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Who: Cub Scout Pack 452 of St. Thomas More Church in Union Township built a makeshift military cemetery that will stay lit continuously for the next two weeks. The families of captured soldier Spc. Keith Matthew Maupin, killed American soldier Sgt. Chuck Kiser and 9/11 victim Wendy Faulkner will attend.
The total cost of the project - $3,000 - came from donations and went toward 2,700 feet of wood to make the crosses and 1,200 feet of pencil rod to hold them in place. A veterans' group donated 1,300 tiny American flags to adorn the crosses. Cinergy donated floodlights to light the flags through the night.

Six parents spent three days cutting the wood. Parents of all 50 Cub Scouts took the wood home, and at a clip of some 30 crosses per family, they assembled and painted each one.

As the number of soldiers who've died in Iraq mounts, Herbolt and her son will check the casualty count and troop out to the park every morning, adding a cross for each dead American serviceman.

At a ceremony this afternoon, the Cub Scouts will place the tiny American flags atop the crosses.

And when the display is taken down on Nov. 20, the crosses and flags will be donated to veterans groups.

The cemetery is a simple idea, but having dozens of boys following through with such a huge project stuns some veterans.

"I am just totally, totally astounded, just amazed," said 59-year-old David Conley, commander of the Batavia Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

"I'm a veteran of Vietnam, and things were tough for us when we came home. It just amazes me these children, young as they are, take such an interest in the soldiers who have given their lives for their country."


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