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Independence Day

“July the Fourth’s still special,
A day to celebrate
With patriotic fervor
That makes our country great.”
By Evelyn Merilatt Baol

July Fourth is a very special day. When we were kids, officials at our local playgrounds gave out Hoodsies the morning of the Fourth. Other years we went to a local school where we watched cartoons and then received Hoodsies. At night, the family would go to Jamaica Pond to watch fireworks. They were gorgeous as they reflected in the water. Now we have a cookout at home and then watch the Pops’ concert and the Esplanade fireworks on TV. If the weather is not too hot, we will probably work in the yard. Over the weekend, we will go to our annual family cookout at Margie and Janet’s cottage, a treat enjoyed by all the family. I know where my shirt is, with parts of the flag printed all over it. One Fourth of July, Hubby and I were invited to the home of friends in Natick. As we passed through the toll booth in Brighton, the collector saluted me and said, “That is a great shirt.” Hubby and I both laughed.

As I mentioned last week, our family has had two important celebrations in the past few weeks. The first was my sister-in-law Peg’s 80th birthday celebration, which I described in last week’s paper. The second function was held a week later. The World’s Greatest Grandson Brendan was to receive his Eagle Scout Medal at ceremonies at Rockport High School on Sat., June 11, beginning at 2 p.m. We had to travel on Route 1 because of the terrible construction problems on Route 93. We hit three pockets of traffic as we drove. We thought that wasn’t too bad considering the chaos because of the construction on 93. Sue knew the way to the high school so we breezed right through town and arrived early at the school

When we went into the school, we saw Brendan standing next to a state trooper. We discovered a little later that Trooper Brian McCann, looking very official in his trooper’s uniform, was going to be part of the ceremony. (Hubby took a photo of Brendan with Trooper McCann.) Upon entering the auditorium, we saw son-in-law David and granddaughter Erin already seated about one-third of the way up from the stage. We sat in the row behind them. Niece Terri had arrived with her brother/nephew Steve and his wife Judi. They sat in the row behind us. Then Trooper McCann joined us. We began reading the program. We discovered that Brendan was one of five scouts who were to be honored that day: Brian Amero, David Fox, Isaac Perry, Brendan, and Grant Weaver. Each of the young men was wearing his sash with all his well-earned badges.

When the Eagle Court of Honor began, Troop 20, except for the five honorees, marched onto the stage. Gary Lucas, a member of the Troop Committee, welcomed us to the ceremony. Members of the troop performed the Flag Ceremony. One of the new Eagle Scouts, Isaac, led the Pledge of Allegiance. Tom Paradis gave the Invocation. Members of the troop performed the Candle Ceremony. Another member of the Troop Committee Jeff Hildonen announced the Special Awards. Assistant Scoutmaster Roger Carter presented the Scout Awards. The rank of Eagle Scout was explained by Eagle Scout Ross Hildonen. The Eagle Rededication was led by Eagle Scout Jason Haselgard. The Significance of the Eagle was explained by Eagle Scout Dan Carter; the Eagle Charge, by Eagle Scout Chris Fisher. The awards were presented by Scoutmaster Ben Favalaro and Eagle Scout Jeff Hildonen. The citations and plaques were presented by the leaders and honored guests.

Then each of the new Eagle Scouts presented his mentor with a Mentor pin. Four of the young men chose one of the scout leaders as his mentor. Brendan, however, called Trooper Brian McCann to the stage and presented the Mentor pin to him. Brendan had chosen Brian because he appreciated his guidance when both were working at Salisbury Beach last summer. The ceremonies ended with a terrific slide presentation by Scout Master Ben Favaloro. Ben had photos of the new Eagle Scouts from the time they entered scouting to the present day when they were working on their Eagle Scout projects. The last slide was “Go, Bruins,” which made everyone laugh and applaud. Tom Paradis ended the festivities with Benediction.

I must tell you what each of the honorees performed for his Eagle Scout Project. In alphabetical order, Brian Amaro was first. Brian and his helpers built five picnic tables for Rockport High School, using a design that would last for many years. Judging from the photos, the red tables are beautifully made. His project was so successful that there is a request to build some for the elementary school. Congratulations, Brian! The second Eagle Scout, David Fox, chose to restore the Town of Rockport’s memorial poles and plaques. The town’s DPW had the plaques removed from the poles and taken to Scout Hall. The troop helped to sand down the rust as well as the weathered bronze. A coat of black paint was then applied to the background of the plaques. The troop broke up into four groups and began to sand down and eventually repaint the 20 memorial poles in the town. A few days later, the plaques were returned to their poles and the project was completed. Congratulations, David!

The third Eagle Scout, Isaac Perry, chose to paint the benches for the newly-restored, town-owned Community House in Rockport. The benches came from the old town hall. The crew gave the benches a primer coat after they had been sanded and scraped. They then gave the benches a new coat or two of paint. The benches are now being used and appreciated by members of the Senior Center and other building users. The benches will stay in that building for good. Congratulations, Isaac! The fourth Eagle Scout was grandson Brendan, who chose to rehab the trail at Halibut State Park in Rockport. Halibut Point is a beautiful spot on the coast of Rockport, with the magnificent Atlantic Ocean surrounding it. (Our son Paul proposed to his then girl friend Alex at Halibut Point more than 11 years ago.) This lovely area draws many tourists, especially in warm weather. With volunteers from his troop plus a crew from the State’s Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, they cleared and widened the trail, which had become heavily overgrown. It could not have been a worse day for working outside. It was a Saturday in April, with heavy rain, strong winds, and freezing cold. The volunteers were exhausted, soaked to the skin, and frozen. (They all deserved medals.) Hubby, son Paul, and I walked the trail with Brendan on Mother’s Day and could see all the work that the volunteers did under the most adverse conditions. Bravo, Brendan!

The final Eagle Scout, Grant Weaver, decided to send care packages to those in the military serving overseas. (Many of them were from the Cape Ann area.) With the help of 19 volunteers, he gathered $663.98 in donations and also boxes of food, candy, and personal hygiene products from shoppers at two local grocery stores. These goods, along with some goods purchased at BJ’s, filled 33 12”x12”x5 1/2” boxes and two larger boxes, over 35 pounds each. Grant, with a total of 29 volunteers, spent a hectic but productive 107 plus hours that really made a difference in the lives of many service men and women. Bravo, Grant! By the way, each Eagle Scout received letters of congratulations from such dignitaries as President Obama, Senators Kerry and Brown, Mass. Gov. Patrick, and the local congressman. They even received one from Pope Benedict XVI, which amazed us. Brendan also received a separate thank-you note from the DCR Commissioner Ed Lambert for his Eagle Scout project, improving the trail at Halibut Point.

At the end of the ceremony, we all adjourned to the school’s cafeteria, where a buffet was awaiting us. All the food was scrumptious: the meatballs and the mac and cheese were to die for! I went over to the scout leader who had made the mac and cheese and told him he was my new best friend. He looked at me strangely but then began to laugh when I complimented him on his terrific mac and cheese. While we were eating, Brendan went around to each table to chat with the people. We all thought the afternoon was wonderful. By the way, proud aunt/daughter Sue bought a mug on the internet with Brendan’s name, troop number, and day he achieved his Eagle Scout rank. She also bought three magnets. One said, “Our son is an Eagle Scout,” for David and Jeanne. The second one said, “Our grandson is an Eagle Scout.” (Hubby and I put the magnet on our fridge!) The final one said, “My nephew is an Eagle Scout.” This one is on Sue’s fridge.

I heard, from her daughter Theresa, that Dottie Beswick has had health problems since Easter. I send special good wishes to Dottie for improved good health.

The Fourth of July Pops Concert sounds wonderful. The guest performer is Lionel Richie. One of my all-time favorite videos is Lionel’s All Night Long. I also heard, on WBZ, that Michael Chiklis, whom Hubby and I loved as “The Commish,” is also going to be on program. It sounds terrific!

In keeping with the Fourth of July, this quote by former astronaut and senator John Glenn seems most appropriate: “I am glad to see that pride in our country and its accomplishments is not a thing of the past.”