Friday, July 29, 2005

Bush Keeps Scouts Waiting

President Bush cancels appearance at tragic jamboree... again

Bowling Green, Virginia -- A gathering of Boy Scouts in Bowling Green, Virginia for a national Jamboree was planned under a cloud, began with a tragedy and continues in misery.

The idea that the Boy Scouts could even hold the Jamboree — held every four years at Fort A.P. Hill — has been the subject of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which contends that the Defense Department's sponsorship violates the First Amendment because the Scouts require members to swear an oath of duty to God.

A federal judge recently ruled that the Pentagon can no longer financially support the event. If the ruling stands, the Boy Scouts of America would have to find another location for their next gathering.

In exchange for getting the use of the Army training base, the Scouts have spent about $20 million on base improvements that include road paving and plumbing upgrades. The Army uses the Jamboree as an opportunity to train its personnel in crowd control, communications and other logistical skills

The Bush Administration has refused to even contest the suit by the ACLU and only the appeal by the Boy Scouts to the ruling stands in the way of removing the organization from all military bases.

Which, after this year, might be okay with most Scouts.

The Jamboree of over 40,000 Scouts experienced tragedy at the very beginning of the event when four Scout leaders, who were erecting a tent, were killed when a tent pole touched a power line.

Killed were Michael J. Shibe, 49, Mike Lacroix, 42, and Ronald H. Bitzer, 58, all of Anchorage, Alaska; and Scott Edward Powell, 57, who had recently moved from Anchorage to Perrysville, Ohio. Shibe had two sons at the Jamboree and Lacroix had one.

The tragedy was witnessed by several Scouts.

The Scouts have been visited by grief counselors and leaders have decided to forge ahead with the jamboree in honor of the victims and their families.

The gathering especially looked forward to a visit from President Bush, in the wake of the tragedy, and the entire gathering endured sweltering temperatures in anticipation of the visit.

The Boy Scouts marched onto the reception field Wednesday singing and plopping down in the grass to wait for President Bush. The more than 40,000 Scouts, volunteers, and leaders attending the event had been standing in the sun about three hours when word came that Bush would not be there until Thursday.

In the interim, hundreds fell ill because of the blistering heat. About 300 people were hospitalized for heat-related illnesses after waiting hours while the scouts in attendance passed through security lines to see Bush.

The visit by the president was again postponed on Thursday.

Boy Scouts of America rescheduled its arena show for Sunday in the hopes that Bush will show the event — less than an hour's drive from the White House.

At the last Jamboree four years ago Bush's trip was also canceled because of "bad weather," in which lightning strikes caused minor injuries to two Scouts. Bush spoke to the group a day later by videotape.



At 7:40 AM, Blogger John B. said...

Yes, we were visiting in Dc this week, I just shook my head at the whole issue...


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