(no name) ((no email))
Fri, 12 Jul 1996 22:49:01 -0500
He made me proud to be Black, a Scout, and a veteran all at the same time.
I observed him as he carefully held the arms of the wheelchair, assisting
the fragile old woman from her seat and into a waiting automobile. She must
have offered him a tip for his kindness, as he closed the door of the car.
"I'm sorry. They won't let us accept anything for our work. Besides," I
overheard him state as he sat down in the chair and turned it toward the
ramp, "I'm a Boy Scout and I couldn't take it if I could. Thank you,
though. Have a good day!"
*That's* what got my attention at first.
I followed the young man, now in the company of a chunky white kid with
reddish-brown hair. He too, was seated in the wheelchair that once sat
another visitor to the Harry Truman Veterans Administration Hospital in
Columbia, Missouri. The two boys are part of Truman Volunteers, donating
their time during the summer months to escort the once able-bodied of
veterans of our wars and military service and their spouses. They take vets
in, out and around the regional medical facility, in part due to the fact
that the original handicapped entrance was torn up as part of a
multi-million dollar upgrade to the aged old military hospital.
The two boys were racing, trying to be the first one back to where the
"rest stop was". I slowed them down by asking where was the personnel
office located. The black kid did a "wheelie" with his chair, lifting it
slightly as he performed what for me would be a dangerous manuever.
"Where are you a Scout at?", I asked. I then added "I volunteered at a
hospital once....didn't last too long, though."
"In town", the Scout responded, and then gave me directions to the
"Hey Kenny", I replied, reading the nameplate below the VA nameplate on his
maroon smock. "How did you hear about this work?"
At first, Kenny was surprised that I knew his name, but after touching his
nametag briefly, he then replied "My dad told me about it. I love it!". He
then got out of his wheelchair, parked it alongside several others, and
then added, "Lots of guys have jobs that pay. I have a job that gives me
smiles...and it's fun, too!"
As if someone turned on the "too much fun" alarm, a matronly older woman
came barrelling around the corner from the wheelchair area, almost yelling
"Okay boys, we hired you to work, not sit and play! Third floor center!"
I watched as the two stopped playing and as if they were being given a top
secret assignment, they adjusted themselves and guided a wheelchair apiece
up the hallway toward the elevators. The matronly woman told me again where
the Personnel office was and I was on my way in that direction.
Hoping to see Kenny or his friend after I completed my business -- looking
for a possible new job -- I returned to the information booth in the lobby.
It was empty and the lights were off. I returned to the rental car, checked
my watch and started to drive back out and up the hill to join my wife at
the University hospital where she has applied for jobs at.
Out my rearview mirror, though, I looked at the empty "waiting area" at the
top of the ramp where I saw Kenny and his workmate at a couple of hours
ago. For a slight momment, I knew what William Boyce felt when he couldn't
find his Unknown Scout in England.
When so many people are crying that we've losing our youth to the streets.
When so many people are saying that we still have racial problems. When so
many people are complaining about the effectiveness and costs of our
I think that President Truman, Bill Boyce, and Baden-Powell are all raising
glasses of wine to those two boys...and others...whom are taking a summer
to be of service to others. That's what being a citizen is all about. What
equality is all about.
That's what Scouting, in a large part, is about.
(MAJ) Mike L. Walton (Settummanque, the blackeagle) (
co-Owner, Blackeagle Services of Kentucky (502.826.7046) __)_
174 Chapelwood Drive, Henderson, Kentucky 42420-5036 | ** |]
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