Scouts shine as they clean shrine

By CARLOS BONGIOANNI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 21, 2003

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Tucked away in a thicket of jungle, here, a historic shrine lay virtually inaccessible.

Over the holiday weekend, a group of Boy Scouts liberated the shrine and a path and bridge that led to it from an overgrowth of foliage.

It was a two-day job that Daniel Polaski, 13, spent more than 40 hours planning for his Eagle Scout project. During the execution of his plan, Polaski said he supervised about 20 Boy Scouts from Troop 102 who helped with the effort.

The youth said he surveyed the site in January and determined he wanted to improve its appearance and add some safety railings along a bridge that spans a stream running adjacent to the shrine.

He said he discussed it with officials at Kadena’s 18th Civil Engineering Group Environmental Flight and got their blessing to proceed with the project.

The base provided all the materials for the project at no cost to the scouts, said A. Naim Qazi, flight chief. Qazi explained that the base is responsible for restoring historical sites and so was able to donate the concrete, wooden stakes, pebbles and tools and equipment for the cleanup effort.

“This is a very good, positive thing they’ve done to improve community relations,” said Qazi, noting that local Okinawans come to the shrine site as a place of worship to offer prayers. “When they come here, they’ll know that we’re taking care of their historical and cultural sites.”

Army Lt. Col. Dennis Polaski said he was proud of his son’s interest in the environment and the cultural relics belonging to the people of another society. The father is president of the local chapter of the Society of American Military Engineers, which regularly adopts cultural sites for restoration and maintenance.

The elder Polaski said the Eagle Scout project helped his son develop good character traits and leadership skills.

Qazi said the base officially would adopt the site during an annual Earth Week ceremony in April. From that time on, SAME members will take the responsibility of maintaining the site.

The younger Polaski said it felt “real good” seeing the project near completion Saturday. In all, the Boy Scouts who participated contributed about 70 man-hours of work, he said. He now needs one more merit badge to make Eagle Scout.

As part of an Eagle Scout project he planned and supervised, Daniel Polaski, 13, helps clear debris from a bridge and shrine site that had been overgrown with vegetation.


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