Boy scout seeks info on VFW plaques
By JENNIFER STROBEL | The (Fredericksburg, Va.) Free Lance-Star | Published: August 19, 2014
(MCT) Boy Scout Ian Dow needs some leads to solve a history mystery.
As part of his Eagle project, the Colonial Forge sophomore has committed to upgrading memorial plaques, freshening up the landscaping around 19 memorial trees and compiling biographies of the soldiers memorialized in the mini-park setting outside the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3103.
Problem 1: It appears that a number of plaques are missing, but it is unknown how many.
Problem 2: It does not appear that anyone has kept a consistent log of the names on the plaques, or if they have, Dow has yet to find that person. Nor has Dow found a record of the tree plantings.
Problem 3: Remaining markers are out of position, sometimes flat on the ground or hidden in a bush at the edge of the property. The markers, made of plastic, are intended to sit on wire stakes stuck in the ground. But they fall over. Weather damages them.
Dow wants to install new markers with as many of the original names as possible. He has pursued every avenue of logical research—online, at the library and at the VFW—and still comes up with only a smattering of helpful information. He’s putting the word out to the general public, hoping for help filling in the gaps.
Dow has been working with Pete Poillon, a Navy veteran and VFW member who has been tending the lawn since about 2002 after moving to Fredericksburg.
Each week, Poillon has recruited at least one of his four sons to pitch in with lawn care and sundry other landscape tasks outside the post. (His eldest son is now on active duty with the Navy.)
From the beginning, Poillon noticed that “the memorial plaques were beaten up, thrown around in the wind. I wasn’t sure if any were missing,” he said in a recent interview.
“It bothers me every time I cut the lawn,” he said, adding that the loss of the memorial markers “was not because of negligence or malice.”
It’s just that membership and leadership of the volunteer organization has changed through the years. Older veterans may be gone. Record-keeping has not always been systematic, and any records that were kept may be tucked away or lost.
Someone once had high hopes for the site, a green grove just off busy U.S. 1 at its intersection with the Falmouth Bridge spanning the Rappahannock River.
Poillon thought of a way to continue that vision, and honor the memory of local servicemen and women.
He pitched the idea of an Eagle Scout project to a troop, and put together a written statement of goals and objectives for any Scout willing to take it on.
The idea inspired Dow to call Poillon, and the project was underway.
“I wanted to do something that specifically helps veterans because of grandparents and other family affiliated with the military,” Dow said in a recent interview.
His paternal grandfather served as an Army Air Corps World War II pilot; his paternal grandfather was a WWII Navy veteran; and his maternal uncles, Vietnam Army veterans.
In addition, he said, Scouts and Scout masters in his troop have military connections.
The son of Mark and Olivia Dow, Ian Dow is a member of Troop 850. Keith Burba was the Scout master who approved the project, and David Close is the current Scout master.
Project goals include creation of a post memorial record, including an electronic log that can be readily updated, and a map of the placement of trees and memorials; new durable signs; refreshed landscaping; and a memorial ceremony to “increase awareness and solicit continued recognition of veterans.” He wants to compile biographical information as well.
Dow has been working on the project since April, and hopes to achieve the goals in time for the post’s 70th anniversary celebration Oct. 11.
“He seems to be chugging along,” Poillon said of the Scout and his project.
A previous Eagle Scout, John Sharp, from Troop 170, is credited for his work on a marker placed on a decorative stone that honors veterans of the Iraq War.
Dow has found six individual markers at the site honoring local veterans who died in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Were there memorials honoring those from other eras?
“I would have a hard time believing there weren’t,” Poillon said.
Poillon recalls that the memorial trees were already in place when he started caring for the grounds year ago. Dow has identified those 19 trees as American elms. In their midst, a maple tree shades the decorative stone that bears the message: “You will never be forgotten.”
Jennifer Strobel: 540/374-5432