LAURINBURG — More than 30 local teens learned a little about giving their time.
Two youth groups from Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints and Woodville Pentecostal Holiness Church visited American Legion Post 50 to lend a hand with some routine tasks and show their thanks to veterans on Saturday.
“It was the first time any church has ever been here to volunteer and help at the American Legion,” said Jody Deaton a member of both the American Legion and Woodville. “It alleviated the vets a lot. We’re getting older, and it’s getting tough for us to get around. Our youngest guys from Vietnam are 60, 65 years old.”
The cleanup efforts were geared toward preparations for Post 50’s Memorial Day service in May.
On Memorial Day members of the American Legion will visit Hillside Cemetery and place flags on the graves of veterans. That evening there will be a memorial service and guest speaker at the Post’s Memorial Garden.
The Laurinburg chapter of the American Legion is largely comprised of vets from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. There are a few from Desert Storm, but the elder statesmen of the group continue to do the work that they’ve done for years at the post.
Adjutant Gen. Dewey Pitman, Deaton, Vice Commander Bill Riggins, and Commander Jimmy Bennett were on hand Saturday and were glad to have the help.
Pittman, makes it his mission to keep the Memorial Garden clean visiting daily to pick up thrash that has been blown or thrown into the garden.
The garden contains monuments and flags representing all branches of the military, a memorial for prisoners of war and missing in action and 13 memorial walls filled with bricks bearing the names of veterans, one of which dates back to 1776.
The younger teens from Woodville’s Impact youth group spent an hour and a half cleaning and reorganizing the kitchen in the legion’s meeting hall.
“They’re going through and taking everything out and turning it into a [proper] kitchen, utensils and all that type stuff that a kitchen would require because we’ve had everything in there but what we needed for a kitchen,” Pittman said. “Those two groups, we certainly do appreciate.”
The older teens from the Latter Day Saints Young Men’s and Young Women’s youth group spent the afternoon weeding, picking up trash, cleaning windows and moving furniture in both the meeting hall and the legion’s office. One of the LDS youth leaders volunteered his efforts to set up the computer system in the new office.
Local contractor Mallory Oxendine has volunteered to pressure wash the walls and sidewalks in the garden for free.
“This is the only memorial that we have in Scotland County right now to honor our veterans. Right now we have close to 1,200 names on those walls,” Pittman said. “This is our pride right here. The pride of the American Legion.”
Riggins who called himself the “oldest rat in the barn” at Post 50, said the garden is not only a source of pride to the community, but to visitors as well.
“We have people who come down in the summer for family reunions and they’ll stay at the Hampton Inn or Scotland Inn [and other Riggins family hotels], and they’ll come up here and look at the memorial. Their fathers and brothers and uncles and aunts are up here in this memorial and they’ll come up here and look around,” Riggins said.
Most of the members of Post 50 also have family members on the walls as well.
The memorial started when Pittman bought one brick for a family member and kept adding because he had other relatives who had served. Others became involved and a full-fledged memorial soon took shape.
There is still room to add names and the men hope to keep the garden expanding. Bricks can be purchased for $75.
Anyone wishing to purchase brick in honor or memory of a veteran can reach Bennett or Pitman at the American Legion at 910-277-2597.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169