By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL firstname.lastname@example.org
MIDDLEBURY | Goshen News – Two Middlebury Boy Scouts sponsored by American Legion Mark Wilt Post 210 laid a wreath at the base of the Normandy American Cemetery at Omaha Beach during the 2017 Normandy Camporee in Colleville-sur-Mer in France April 23.
David “Jake” Cushwa Jr., 12, and Wyatt Miller, 11, of Boy Scout Troop 7 in Middlebury attended the Camporee along with their fathers, David Cushwa and Chris Miller, who are leaders with Cub Scout Pack 770 and Boy Scout Troop 7.
“It meant a lot to me,” Jake said, about laying the wreath. “These guys gave their lives for our world to be better.”
Jake and Wyatt placed the wreath in honor of veterans served by Post 210 because the Scout units are chartered by American Legion Post 210 in Middlebury, Chris Miller said.
The Scouts attending the Camporee promise to work together for a future of service and peace while remembering the sacrifices made by Allied armed forces who fought in World War II during the largest air, land and sea operation on D-Day June 6, 1944. The landing included more than 150,000 service men, 5,000 ships and 11,000 airplanes. The Armed forces suffered nearly 10,000 casualties with more than 4,000 dead.
Wyatt said seeing the rows upon rows of white crosses in the cemetery made him sad.
“There were so many,” Wyatt said.
Chris said he’s grateful Post 210 supports Boy Scout Troop 7, Club Scout Pack 770 and Girl Scout Troop 377 in Middlebury.
“Watching the boys lay the wreath on the Legion’s behalf thus representing our gratitude toward them was a very special moment for me,” Chris said.
After the ceremony, the boys walked through the cemetery and placed a tulip on the graves of soldiers from Indiana, Chris added.
The Camporee was hosted by the Transatlantic Council of the Boy Scouts of America with youth and leaders from the Boy Scouts of America, Girls Scouts of the USA, Scout Association UK, Scouts et Guides de France and other Scouts attending the four-day event.
Chris Miller said he had read an article in 2014 about a Normandy Camporee and was interested in going with his son and other Scouts and family members.
“I wanted my son (Wyatt) to grasp the realities of what happens in war and to try to understand the sacrifices made by this generation (World War II veterans),” Chris said. “Being in Scouting with my son and daughter (Kenzie) has provided many wonderful opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have considered and I knew this event would be extra special.”
Wyatt shared his two reasons for attending the event: his love for history and travel.
Jake said he wanted to attend the Camporee to see the battlefields, along with his dad, David. Both are big history buffs.
“I knew this would be a trip of a lifetime, and Normandy has always been on my bucket list of places I want to go at some point in my life,” David said. “Having the opportunity of going with my son and extra special meaning of going with the Boy Scouts of American to visit these hallowed grounds was truly an opportunity. Studying the history of the area is one thing, but to actually walk the beach, the hillsides, the cobblestone streets of where the greatest generation secured freedom for all of Europe is truly the experience.”
A special bonfire ceremony was held for all Scouts on Omaha Beach at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer with a formal “cross-over” ceremony. Jake and Wyatt were among other Scouts transitioning from being a Cub Scout into being a Boy Scout. This was followed by a “Messengers of Peace” dinner to solidify their commitment of service and peace, David Cushwa said.
“The crossover ceremony shows their transition from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. It’s really a big deal,” Cushwa said, “and to be able to do it on the sands of Omaha Beach made it that much more special.”
A closing ceremony took place April 23 in the morning at the American Cemetery Colleville-sur-Mer with Maj. Gen. Timothy Zadalis, vice commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa, who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, as well.
Jake said he liked being at the Camporee with Scouts from around the world and getting to crossover to Boy Scouts on Omaha Beach.
“I liked spending time with my dad and learning about what the soldiers did and went through," he said. "My least favorite part of the trip was the food.”
For Wyatt, he liked the airplane ride, seeing Normandy and the battlefields and touring Paris.
“I liked laying the wreath for guys at the Legion and climbing the bunkers at the big red one (1st Infantry Division) and Ranger (Point du Hoc) memorials and crossing over to Boy Scouts on Omaha Beach. I liked climbing the Eiffel Tower and seeing Paris at night. The food was good. I liked it all.”
There was one thing that Wyatt said was the least favorite part of the trip.
“My dad reading the stories on every sign he saw,” Wyatt said.
With the next Camporee scheduled to be in 2019 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Chris said he plans to return with his daughter, Kenzie, who is a member of Girl Scout Troop 377 in Middlebury.
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