FAIRFIELD, Calif. – A strong community is not something that can be built overnight; it is a relationship of trust and goodwill that continues over the years, bringing everyone together.
The 749th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 115th Regional Support Group, California Army National Guard, saw a show of support from their neighbors at a beautification project for the Benicia Armory held by local Boy Scout troops, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the Benicia Tree Foundation Dec. 7.
The event was comprised of four separate Boy Scout Eagle projects – community events organized by the individual Scouts. This event is the key requirement for them to reach the rank of Eagle Scout – the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America program. Though the event itself took one day, the planning process started months earlier.
Lt. Col. Donna McDermott, the commander of the CSSB since March, reached out to VFW Post 3928 regarding local organizations who might be interested in helping to improve the armory.
“The unit deployed between 2010 and 2011, and the grounds were somewhat neglected because of their absence,” McDermott said.
A retired Airman in the VFW, Ernest Gutierrez serves as a Boy Scout leader at both the district and state levels, and acted as a liaison between the VFW and local Boy Scout troops. After hearing about the need for a restoration project at the armory, he suggested this would be a good opportunity for several of the local scouts who were looking to complete their Eagle projects.
“We feel the Boy Scouts are the type of people who will grow up to be the men and the soldiers this nation needs,” Gutierrez said. “As a veteran I know the importance of what they’re doing out here today, and we support them any way we can.”
Four Boy Scouts volunteered for projects; Harrison Meyer, Mathew Peters and Gian Rivasplata from Troop 8, and Elias Martin from Troop 184. Each of these scouts took charge of a separate area on the armory grounds where new trees and California-native shrubbery would be planted.
“[This project] did something for the armory, it did something for the environment by planting trees, and gave the Boy Scouts the opportunity to earn their Eagle Scout award by doing a project here in the community,” McDermott said.
An Eagle project demonstrates a Boy Scout’s ability to lead other people and coordinate the logistical and administrative needs of his plan. Reaching Eagle is a difficult goal that only a select few Scouts achieve – in 2012 approximately 7% of Boy Scouts attained the rank.
For Meyer, who hails from a military family, this was also an opportunity to learn more about the armed forces and even offer them a helping hand.
“I just want to serve my country,” Meyer said.
Soon, another local organization stepped in to offer a helping hand – the Benicia Tree Foundation, an organization dedicated to strengthening the community by promoting tree planting, maintenance and education. The group provided volunteers to assist in the work, and reached out to the community for resources needed for the project.
“We put out a general call to the community to come on down and give a hand” said Tina Marchetti, the foundation’s executive director. “[Local businesses] were very kind to extend generous discounts for this project and we really appreciate that.”
On the morning of the event, volunteers, families and onlookers showed up and broke ground with a cheery attitude of friendly teamwork and community spirit. A barbeque was provided by members of the VFW and American Legion.
“It’s going to be a big event today, and there’s going to be a lot of different people running around, we’ll have some fun things to do, we’ll be playing music, and we’ll get this place cleaned up,” McDermott said.
The project took place during the monthly drill weekend for the unit, so the soldiers’ regular duties took top priority, but as work permitted, individual troops ventured out as individuals or small groups to lend a helping hand.
“I can see all these people out here working, and it just makes me feel honored to be a part of this, it’s great,” said Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Foster, a CSSB soldier. “I like helping. That’s what the military does, it’s part of the job.”