Boy Scouts march to celebrate 100 years of service
Monday, July 26, 2010
Cyclists, tourists and the occasional jogger stood out in the sea of Boy Scout troops wearing tan shirts, green shorts and thick green-and-red socks -- some rolled hastily down to their ankles. Spectators lined the sizzling sidewalks along Constitution Avenue in clusters wherever they could find shade.
The troops and accompanying bands were all smiles and appeared to be unaffected by the heat as they marched to celebrate the group's 100th anniversary.
The Grand Centennial parade marked the first time since 1937 that Boy Scout troops had marched through the District. The last time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited them to convene on the Mall for their first jamboree after a polio outbreak led to its cancellation in 1935.
On Sunday, troops young and old marched in the parade, and some stood cheering. Among them was Ted Parker, 71, of Oakton. He joined Troop 1956 as a child in Portsmouth, N.H., and said he made lasting friendships while learning values that served him throughout his life.
Parker said most of the troops marching Sunday were probably too young to understand the importance of the program's moral teachings -- such as being honest, respectful and open with others. Time, Parker said, would unveil the importance of these values to the young men.
"They grow up and they're confronted with various issues throughout life, and I think they see the meaning," he said. "As I come here and watch, it's sort of generational in many ways."
Bob Hoffman, 46, of Ijamsville, Md., stood on Constitution Avenue next to his 11-year-old son, Hunter -- a third-generation Boy Scout -- wearing a matching uniform. Bob looks forward to guiding Hunter toward appreciating the values his father passed on to him when he was Hunter's age.
"It teaches young men and women how to think for themselves, how to work as teams," Hoffman said. "It really gives them a good tool set for handling things in the future."
Hunter, a member of Troop 268 in New Market, has been scouting since kindergarten and moved up from Cub Scout to Boy Scout in March.
"In Boy Scouts, you're more independent than in the Cub Scouts," Hunter said. "With Cub Scouts, your parents help you earn badges and stuff. But in Boy Scouts, you earn them on your own."
Boy Scouts can earn as many as 124 merit badges for mastering certain skills.
To Bob Mazzuca, chief scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America, there was no place better than the District for troops to celebrate 100 years of service, even if they had to do so in blazing heat, oppressive humidity and then a thunderstorm.
"This is where it's at," he said. "We're part of the fabric of American society and have been for 100 years. So there's no more appropriate place to proclaim that than the capital."
A 30-foot-long U.S. flag was one of the first displays crowds saw marching down the parade route from Seventh Street to 17th Street NW on Constitution Avenue. The giant flag was followed shortly by 50 marching scouts who each waved smaller flags in one hand while waving to the crowd with the other.
The Grand Centennial parade kicked off this year's Boy Scout National Jamboree, a 10-day meeting of about 50,000 troops at Fort A.P. Hill near Fredericksburg.
The event was pushed back by one year so it could coincide with the organization's 100th anniversary. The National Jamboree has grown to include troops from Asia, Europe, and South and Central America, Mazzuca said.