This year at CTT, we are lucky to have an American soldier here to celebrate Independence Day. Jason Neely, a rookie counselor in Cabin 1, is a member of the West Virginia Air National Guard and it is remarkable to see how seriously he takes this day.
We are all patriotic people and we stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and cover our hearts for the national anthem, but Jason makes us all look like slackers. He sits on porches and cabins for hours and talks to campers about how much he enjoys serving his country and about what military life is like. He wears his fatigues to intense events like Rope Burn to add an air of intensity the rest of us can’t match. And this morning, after the wake-up bell, he stood on the porch of the BV, fixed in a rigid salute, as The Star-Spangled Banner was played over loudspeakers.
It was almost haunting to see one of my peers and co-counselors switch into soldier mode and I realized that without people like him we would not have a place such as this to come and be with the people we love. When he stood at breakfast and urged us all to write a letter to a soldier today, the campers and counselors broke into a ‘USA’ chant and he swelled with pride. And he deserves to.
Next summer, there is a very real chance that Jason will be trading a CTT staff shirt and the mountains of West Virginia for a combat uniform and the doldrums of Afghanistan. While the rest of us mill around and stress about planning such trivial things as Pirate Day, he is mentally preparing himself to go ensure that we have a safe place to live. The weight must be tremendous on the young man’s shoulders, but he doesn’t show it. He laughs and has fun just like the rest of us, but sometimes, like this morning, we are reminded of how special he is.
Usually in this blog I like to mention campers and the fun we are all having, but when I saw Jason on the porch this morning I knew this had to be a different kind of post. On Independence Day, we should be honoring the people who have made the American dream such a reachable goal and he is one of these people. We should enjoy our barbecues and fireworks, but take some time to think of people like Jason. People like him are the reason we have things like Camp Tall Timbers. They are the reason we have nice things and loving families that we can enjoy in safety.
As we work our way through today’s activities, it will look like a normal day at CTT. Tonight is Movie in a Minute, so people will be prepping for that. The flag football playoffs start at free swim. It will look like a run-of-the-mill day, except one counselor will have an extra bounce to his step. And he deserves to.
Thank you, Jason.