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Local Scouts have role in JFK ceremony

With salutes reminiscent of the iconic one that 3-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. gave to his father’s casket 50 years ago, three local Boy Scouts honored one of their own, former Boy Scout and President John F. Kennedy, at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.

Two members of Hartwood’s Troop 1717 and one of Montgomery County, Md.’s Cub Scout Pack 33 were selected to represent the Boy Scouts of America at Arlington in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination.

Benjamin Motta, 11, Alex Pawlica, 11, and Benjamin Andersen, 10, laid a wreath inscribed with the famous words from Kennedy’s inaugural speech on the tomb.

The quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” very much aligns with Boy Scout ideals, said Motta, who is a sixth grader at Gayle Middle School in Stafford County.

“I’ve learned a lot from President Kennedy,” Motta said. “[The quote] is pretty much kind of a sum-up of the Boy Scout motto do your duty to both God and country. I think John F. Kennedy did both of those really well.”

Kennedy was the first former Boy Scout—a member of Troop 2 in Bronxville, N.Y.—to become president.

As a 12-year-old, Kennedy wrote his father “a plea for a raise” in his allowance. In the letter, he said that he had “put away [his] childish things” and wanted to spend his money on Boy Scout materials, such as canteens, blankets and “things that will last for years and I can always use it while I can’t use a cholcalote marshmellow sunday with vanilla ice cream,” according the U.S. Scouting Project website’s copy of the letter.

The Boy Scouts wanted to pay their respects by laying a wreath on the tomb, just as some Scouts did at Kennedy’s funeral in 1963.

The chairman of a Scouting history committee contacted Greg Motta, Benjamin Motta’s father, the assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 1717 and a member of the committee, about getting together a small group of Scouts from the Maryland and Virginia area to represent the entire organization at the ceremony.

“We all owe a service to the community,” Greg Motta said.

“I thought it was an honor ’cause he was such a great president,” Benjamin Motta said. “Not that I was alive to be in the country at the time, but I’ve heard that he was a great president I learned [from Kennedy] to keep the values you learn early in life.”

 Bridget Balch: 540/374-5417