Last weekend, more than 3,000 Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturers and their volunteer scout leaders, parents and siblings assembled at Fort Gordon for Jimmie Dyess Days 2009. The weather was great and the activities plentiful and interesting.
The scouts took advantage of meeting soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, firefighters, police professionals, civic leaders and many others. Quite a few merit badges were earned. Camping out on the fort and eating with the soldiers in the dining hall were special treats.
This was the largest Scout jamboree in the CSRA in many years. Parachute jumps, rock climbing, dog demonstrations, helicopter fly-bys, band performances, a land navigation course, military equipment displays, electrical safety demonstrations, a WFXG webcast, and many more displays and activities made for a very busy Saturday.
IT IS FITTING THAT the festivities were focused on the remarkable life story of Jimmie Dyess since he was from Augusta having been born here 100 years ago. Also he was very active in the Boy Scouts movement, earning at age 14 the rank of Eagle Scout. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scout movement in the United States.
Dyess, who grew up in North Augusta but spent much of his life in Augusta, is the only person in history to have earned America's two highest awards for heroism, the Medal of Honor and the Carnegie Medal. He earned the Carnegie Medal after saving the lives of two women who were drowning during a large storm off the coast of South Carolina. Dyess dove into the angry surf and, after being out of sight for a long time, swam both women to safety. He was 19 years old .
Sixteen years later, as a combat Marine, Dyess went behind enemy lines to save four badly wounded Marines. The next day, while leading his men against the last enemy position, he was shot in the head and killed. For his selfless and heroic actions in February 1944, he received the Medal of Honor, America's highest award for valor in combat.
As they packed up and departed Fort Gordon, each Boy Scout received a copy of the DVD Twice a Hero: The Remarkable Story of Jimmie Dyess . The Jimmie Dyess chapter of the Marine Corps League set up a tent and made these DVDs available to many others. In addition, every troop received a copy of Medal of Honor by Peter Collier. This book highlights the individual life stories of our living Medal of Honor recipients, many of whom were Boy Scouts during their youth. These Medal of Honor recipients are great role models for young scouts.
Putting all of this together was a mammoth effort and hundreds of people contributed their time and their creativity to insure it was a success. Jeremy Whitmore, assistant Scout executive of the Georgia-Carolina Council and Army Col. Bob Hoelscher provided the overall leadership to this event. Hoelscher, who was stationed at Fort Gordon until three months ago, was so dedicated to the endeavor that he came all the way down from his new assignment in Pennsylvania to complete his duties as the event chairman.
There is another Boy Scout event coming up soon. On the morning of Nov. 14 there will be A Gathering of Eagles. Medal of Honor recipient Jack Jacobs will be the speaker. He also will sign and personalize copies of his new book, If Not Now, When? Anyone who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout is invited. For information, contact the Boy Scouts at (706) 733-5277.
FINALLY, IT MAY BE helpful to place the Jimmie Dyess Days within a strategic context. As more and more major events are held in our local area, everyone in the CSRA benefits either directly or indirectly. There are both short-term and long-term social and economic benefits whenever visitors spend time with us. Until quite recently, there were only a few events each year that would draw large crowds to Augusta. Happily, this is no longer the case.
This is turning into a banner year. Here is a list of just a few of the major events for 2009: the Augusta Futurity cutting horse event, the Masters Golf Tournament, Thunder Over Augusta, River Blast, the Southern National Drag Boat Races, Westobou, the ESi Iron Man 70.3 Augusta and Jimmie Dyess Days -- as well as the upcoming the Boshears Skyfest, and the National Barrel Horse Association World Championships.
It is most appropriate to salute those who plan and execute all of these events. It is hard work, and much of it is done by volunteers. The more each of us supports these activities the more we all benefit and the more downtown Augusta, and the entire CSRA will thrive.
(The writer, a retired U.S. Air Force major general, is the secretary of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.)