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Published: Saturday, 5/30/2009

Young Eagle Scout inspires patriotism

This is the time of year for invitations from family and friends celebrating milestones in their lives. There are graduations, showers, and wedding anniversary invitations in May, and greater numbers can be expected in June as the wedding season gets into full swing.

This spring I have received several traditional invitations, but the one that inspired me to wear my American flag lapel pin and to make sure the flag was out on Memorial Day was to an Eagle Scout Court of Honor. It tweaked my patriotism and kindled admiration for the young men who believe in Scouting and work to attain its goals, and for their diligent volunteer leaders.

Gabriel N. Lee, 17, who lives near Hudson, Mich., sent the invitation to the ceremony at the Church of the Nazarene in Morenci, Mich., where he received the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest achievement in scouting. Gabriel's peers in Scout Troop 681 participated in the formal program along with Scoutmaster Lester Janish and veteran Scouts, including Ed Wilkie of Blissfield, representative of the Great Sauk Trail Council. Gabriel's parents, the Rev. Dennis and Cheryl Lee, beamed with pride when they received recognition Eagle lapel pins and a certificate. Scouting requires family involvement and sacrifice.

It felt good to be reminded how great America is, and that in small corners of our country like Morenci, Boy Scouts are gathering, developing character, learning new things, and pledging to do their best for God and their country, as the Scout oath proclaims.

It was fitting that the ceremony was held on Memorial Day weekend because the pulse of patriotism was a steady beat for everyone in attendance.

Gabriel admits that he was not excited about the Scout program before his neighbor, Brett Merilatt, convinced him to go to a meeting. Brett received the Eagle Scout rank in 2008. Considering that only 5 percent of the 2.9 million U.S. Cub Scouts and Scouts become Eagles, having two in the nine-member Morenci troop is a tribute to Scoutmaster Janish.

Gabriel may have attended that first meeting with doubt, but he left with enthusiasm. The troop was working on a catapult, the ancient military conveyance used to hurl rocks, and it got Gabriel's attention. Three years later he is wearing the Eagle Scout badge. The 28 badges on his uniform represent the 325 requirements completed to attain the position. In presenting the award, Assistant Scoutmaster Chris Blaker referred to the occasion as the "the top of the hill after a long trail and a position that will open doors and where people will look up to you."

"I will definitely return to Scout leadership after college," vowed Gabriel,who is home-schooled by his mother. He hopes to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. In preparation he is studying advanced physics and advanced English at Adrian High School.

The main objectives of the Scout program are character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness. The goals achieved through troop projects are intended to teach resourcefulness, initiative, skills that help others, courage, and personal values based on religious concepts. Families using the new picnic table and trash receptacle at Riverside Park in Morenci are enjoying Gabriel's Eagle Scout project that shows using skills for others.

A letter to the editor in the Telegram in Adrian speaks for Gabriel's patriotism. After the Adrian High School assembly held during President Obama's inauguration. Gabriel wrote of his disappointment when only five students and a few teachers stood up when the national anthem was played.

"I was raised to stand with my hand over my heart when the anthem is played," he wrote. "If we as young Americans no longer respect America, how can we expect others to respect it?"

"This is my challenge to all Americans both young and old, regardless of their views. Give America the respect it deserves because without the support of its people, no country can long endure."



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