Chapter 09

The troop settled into its routine with the new leadership taking control. Since so many boys were new to Scouting, the next camp out location was changed to the cave where the Haven boys had camped to remain out of the old sheriff's reach.  This was a perfect place for new boys.  Even though it rained that weekend, the boys were dry and got used to using their equipment in a nice location.  It had been well below freezing outside but nice and warm, comparatively, in the cave.  The power generator was not used.  Other than some burned food, all went well and everyone had a great time.

At the meeting after the camp out, Mr. Little went over the plans for the fund raiser.  There were some surprises for the boys.  Master Sergeant Eddie Richards was going to have his official retirement ceremony on the same Saturday as the spaghetti dinner.  The troop had been asked to move the dinner to Haven, to feed those attending the ceremony, as well as the community.  Mr. Oliver Jones had volunteered to drive the Phoenix bus as a shuttle between the church and Haven, so the community could park at the church.

The boys were to meet at the church after school that Friday with their Class A uniforms on hangers, so they could wear them for the retirement ceremony and dinner the next day.  They would make the sauces Friday night.  Also the boys were to have long-johns and a red sweatshirt to wear under their uniforms since they would be outside for the ceremony.  Of course, those boys that lived at Haven or went to school there would meet the others there and have things ready for the rest of the troop.

The day arrived.  When school was dismissed, Andy and Neal led the Scouts who were there up to the old squad areas that the Phoenix boys had used when they first arrived.  Andy directed them to remove the old squad numbers and replace them with large Patrol Patches Neal had gotten for the doors.  The boys then retrieved their packs, found their areas, claimed beds and soon changed into clothes that could get dirty.

By the time the rest of the troop arrived with Mr. Little and the other adults, the kitchen was ready.  Mr. Little came in, surveyed the kitchen and was very impressed.  They would have no problem with these facilities.  He soon had boys peeling and chopping onions, opening cans of tomato sauce and dumping them in six huge stock pots.

Martha walked in at this point.  "Oh, my soul," she muttered as she approached the adults.  "Mr. Little?"

"Yes, Ma'am?"

"Didn't they tell you?"

She knew the answer by the blank look on his face.  She turned toward the corner where there was a little black box with a green light, "'Philip'!  Find my husband and tell him to get his lazy butt in here to the kitchen, RIGHT NOW!"

In less than a minute, Nick Regnad rushed into the kitchen, "Martha!  What's wrong?"

"No one told the Scouts!" she replied accusingly.

Mr. Little was looking very puzzled and slightly alarmed.  "What haven't I been told?"


Nick sighed, "For one thing, there is the fact that this isn't going to be anywhere near enough sauce."

"It should serve 500 people, easily!"

"Well, that would be fine if we were only serving 500, but we are going to need at least four times that much, and maybe five times."

Mr. little took a step back and gasped.  "We don't have enough!  Where can we get more this late?"

A voice very familiar to those from Haven said, 'Don't worry, I have you covered.  Everything you will need is waiting in the storeroom.'

Mr. Little looked around and not seeing anyone, asked, "Who said that?"

Nick and Martha ignored the question and the Scouts that had lived here just giggled.  How do you explain 'Philip' to an adult?

They went to investigate.  Soon the boys were filling enough 24-quart stock pots to almost take up all the available burners on the huge gas ranges in the banquet kitchen.  Another group was browning hamburger and onions to add to the sauce.  A third group was slicing, buttering, and sprinkling garlic powder on Italian bread then wrapping it in aluminum foil.  By dinner time, there was more spaghetti sauce, sliced garlic bread, and salad than anyone had ever seen in one place before.  The boys had all worked very hard, and the dinner, prepared by the adults, was very much appreciated.  After clean up, the boys went to their patrol areas, and very soon, intense video gaming began.  At eleven thirty, Mr. Little found Andy Rolyat, the new Senior Patrol Leader, and had him get the guys all headed to bed.  They were going to have one heck of a busy day tomorrow.

The Retirement Ceremony was scheduled for 1400 hours, on the dot. (That's 2:00 pm for those non military types.)  There was a constant flow of heavy trucks and buses past Haven; all of them had the letters, "U.S.M.C." stenciled on the sides.  The Scouts were all dying to find out what was going on, but they were told to stay in the Manor and out of the way for now.  The sauce was taken out of cold storage, and put on to simmer.  Everything was made ready to start dinner.  Nick and Martha were the absolute authorities in the kitchen.  After lunch, the Scouts went back to their rooms and prepared to look their absolute best for the Ceremony.  They gathered by patrols, and Andy, the SPL, held an inspection.  He was very proud of his Troop.  They looked really good, even if they were bundled up for the cold outside.

At one thirty (1330 hours) the Scouts formed up and walked to the Ceremony area in a perfect double line.  In front was the Eagle Patrol, acting as the Troop Color Guard, carrying the American Flag and the Troop Flag.  At the edge of the field, a Marine in Dress Blues, with enough gold stripes to impress anyone, said a few words to Mr. Little, pointed, then saluted the American flag, as the Scouts passed.

When the boys stopped, Mr. Little told them, "We have been asked to stay here, and the Eagles will join the Marine Color Guard.  One of the Second Year Webelos will join you to carry the Pack Colors.  The rest of us get to stand here in formation.  I think we might have the best seats in the place."

Andy couldn't resist.  "What seats, Mr. Little?"

That got snickers {and maybe a Milky Way® or two} from the boys.

Mr. Little looked at Andy.  An evil grin crossed his face, "The thing holding up your wallet.  Yours is bigger than most."

That got 'Ooooooos' from the boys, and Andy and Mr. Little grinned at each other.

The seats were beginning to fill.  The Cub Scouts arrived and lined up next to the Scouts.  Chris Swenson, the Webelos 2, joined the Eagles.  A Marine came and got the Color Guard and led them off to the far side of the field.  At 1359 hours, a large helicopter appeared.  We've all seen it, usually landing on the White House Lawn.  It is only designated as Marine Corps One when the President is on board.  Every eye in the crowd was looking on with expectation.  Eddie and his sons were waiting at the edge of the field, watching the famous helicopter land.  Two Marines gingerly pulled the stairs down.  Two Marine Generals, a Navy Admiral and then a very poised, slender, elegant looking older lady descended the steps, followed by two men in black suits.  Eddie was speechless!  He hadn't seen this woman in at least ten years, and she had come here today!

Once the dignitaries were all in place on the dais, the Marine Corps Hymn was heard.  Over the crest of the hill on the far side of the field, the Color Guard appeared, and close behind them, a Marine Band appeared.  They were followed by columns of Marines, all in Dress Blues and in perfect formation.  Eddie stared in absolute amazement as the Platoon flags of the men he had personally put through Basic Training were closely followed by units he had served with over the years.  They just seemed to keep coming.  The thought crossed his mind that there was a real army here at Haven.

Finally, everyone was in place and the band fell silent.  One of the Generals stepped to the microphone.  "Master Sergeant Edward Richards, front and center!"

Eddie hadn't recognized him from that distance, but he knew that voice. It hadn't changed one bit.  It belonged to Major Locman, the CO of the first unit he was assigned to, right out of Boot Camp. 

"Come on, boys, that's our cue."  Eddie in His Dress Blues, Howie in his blue Cub Scout uniform and Arty in his tan and green Scout uniform, marched forward.  The boys stayed in step with their dad and could not have been prouder of him.

Eddie stopped in front of the dais, snapped to attention and saluted.  The boys followed suit.  General Locman returned the salute.  General Locman descended the stairs, followed by the other General and the Admiral.  "Sergeant, would you do the Honors?"

"Thank you, Sir."  Eddie did an about-face.  "Marines!  Ten – Hut!"

Nearly fifteen hundred Marines came to attention as one.  The Scouts were overawed, and came to attention, themselves.

Eddie, followed by his boys, went up and down the ranks of the proud Marines.  He was amazed at himself; he remembered each and every one of their names.  Many of them were no longer on active duty and had somehow squeezed into their long unused uniforms, but they all looked perfect to Eddie.  He shook their hands and exchanged a word or two with each, as he moved up and down the lines.  At last he was done, and he returned to where the Brass was waiting.  They shook his hand.  Then he approached the woman who had been standing there smiling the whole time.


The woman smacked him on the arm, "I thought we settled that a long time ago at the Ranch."

Eddie grinned. "Would you do me the honor of inspecting my new units."

She smiled.  "I would be delighted."  She looked to the other three men, "Come along, and behave yourselves!"

The Scouts and Cubs stood absolutely still, as these adults walked by, smiling at them.  They resisted checking to be sure their zippers were up.  When the inspection was finished, Admiral Harris said, "Very impressive, Sergeant."

"Thank you, Sir."

Now they returned to the dais, General Locman returned to the microphone. "At-Ease!" If you have ever been a part of, or attended, a military ceremony where a large group of men act as one, you know the effect on the Scouts of nearly 1500 men moving from Attention to At-Ease.

"We have assembled here today, to honor one of the finest Marines I have ever known.  When I first met this man, he was a raw recruit right out of Boot Camp.  I now know he was only sixteen, but he certainly was a Marine.  At that time, he was known as Dennis White.  In the two years he served under my command, he developed into a real man.  His career started as a shining star.  He never got into trouble.  When I was asked to recommend someone for Special Duty in Washington, newly promoted Corporal White was the first one I thought of.  I watched a lot of newscasts the next four years and a few times I got to see my Marine.  He did us all proud.  We'll hear more of those years later."  General Locman turned and saluted Eddie, The salute was smartly returned.  The general then hugged the startled Eddie.  "I wish I had a son just like you."

"I wish my father had been half the person you are, Sir." Eddie replied.

"It's Charlie now.  Okay, Eddie?"

Eddie was overwhelmed; he managed a nod.  The crowd, of course, didn't hear any of this private exchange.

General McNeil then took the microphone.  "Sergeant Dennis White was one of the best aids I have ever had.  He was capable and never hesitated to correct me if I got something wrong.  Of course, he was subtle."  He held up a sign that was lying on the podium, big red letters WRONG, and on the back in black letters about half the size, Sir.  "When I heard that his vehicle had been bombed, it was like my best friend had been hit.  And then I couldn't find where he had been sent."

The General took a moment to recover.  "Dennis, I mean Eddie, I want you to know I was trying my damnedest to find you.  When searching the computer databases started having whole sections of your records deleted, I knew that something was going on, but my stars weren't getting me anywhere.  Now, of course, I stand here wishing I could have saved you some of the suffering you endured at the hands of an ego maniac who thought he could make a name for himself by somehow eliminating yours.  I am ashamed that two Marine Officers have caused you so much undeserved grief.  But now, things are as right as they can be made.  You stand here today, reunited with a fine pair of sons who are so proud of their Dad.  I'll be glad to have you serving with me, any time."

General McNeil looked out over the men standing there.  He pointed at Eddie and said, "Men, There stands a MARINE!"

The "WHOOOO HAAAAA!!!!!!!!" was deafening.  General McNeil shook Eddie's hand.  "I took a piece of shrapnel in the back, about a month after you disappeared.  I'm desk bound now, and not far from here.  We will talk more, later."  He shook hands with the boys, reached into his pocket and pinned a Good Conduct medal on each of their uniforms.

Admiral Harris then took the microphone.  "I have only played a minor role in this, but it was my honor and privilege, to undo the wrongs that were done to you, and try, as best I could, to make them right.  I have been a JAG officer for most of my career and this has been the toughest case to straighten out that I have ever been involved in.  The man most responsible for clearing this matter couldn't be here today because he is, at this very moment, perusing a related matter and insisted that it simply couldn't wait.  Lieutenant Clemons sends his deepest regrets and he asked me to tell you that he will come and fill you in on the details as soon as justice is done."

The Admiral then opened the first of several velvet boxes.  "Master Sergeant Eddie Richards, by special order of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, The Department of the Navy, and with the most heart felt recommendation of the present company; I now have the honor of presenting to you, your new Rank of..." Nice dramatic pause. "Major."  He removed the Gold Oak Leaf insignia from the box and pinned them to Eddie's collar; stepped back and saluted.

A stunned Eddie returned the salute.  The crowd went wild.

The Admiral helped the lady to the Microphone.  Silence fell.

"Ronnie and I were so surprised when this boy was assigned to our Honor Guard.  He was so much younger than any of others, and just a Corporal.  I now know that he had just turned eighteen.  We soon learned that his assignment wasn't a mistake.  He soon became indispensable.  He never took leave and he stayed with the President and me whenever possible.  He had been with us for about six months, when Ronnie was out riding on our ranch and a snake spooked his horse.  Eddie, who was not very experienced at riding, nevertheless, spurred his horse and managed to grab the President and got him away from the snake.  I do wish I could have seen it.  The Secret Service were having a fit, because this greenhorn had acted before any of them had even realized the danger.  Next thing they knew, the president was thrown over Eddie's lap like a sack of potatoes. {the e is acceptable, thanks, Dan Q.}

"That evening, Ronnie asked to see Eddie and they sat and talked for hours.  The next morning, Ronnie told me an incredible story and told me he had adopted Eddie as a nephew, so I shouldn't be surprised if I got called Aunt Nancy.  Even after we left the White House, we followed your career.  We worried when you earned that first Purple Heart, I know that you have deserved every medal that is on your chest, and now I have the pleasure of adding more.

"The first is a third Purple Heart, as my grandkids would say, DUH!"  That got a laugh, especially from the Scouts and parents. 

"Then we have a second Bronze Star and lastly, The Soldier's Medal.  This is for how Eddie calmly and rationally faced the enemy, kept his head and persevered through it all.  The enemy faced by our new Major was not a foreign foe, but, I guess you would call it 'Friendly Fire.' 

"Eddie, I have replaced a letter from Ronnie that had been removed from your official record and I have a copy here for you, too.  Also there is a letter he had written in the event you had serious troubles.  The first is a presidential pardon, for your enlisting under a false name.  That was in the records, and I imagine, someone thought that no one would know if they removed it.  Rest assured that the guilty parties are now, in fact, living in Kansas and they will be staying there for a very, very long time.  You are family and nobody messes with my family without a fight.  Semper Fi."

Mrs. Reagan gave Eddie a hug like one he had always wished his own mother would have given him.  She then bent down and gave both Howie and Arty a nice hug and told then that they were to call her Aunt Nancy.

General McNeil stepped back to the microphone.  "Fellow Marines.  I have the extreme honor of presenting, MISTER Edward Richards!"

The Marine ranks shouted and cheered.  Family from the audience met the still dazed Eddie when he came down the stairs.

Tom was the first one there, "Welcome home, for real."

"Thanks Tiger.  I think the nightmare is finally over."

Mr. Little and the other Adult leaders got the Scouts moving back to the manor.  Nancy Reagan took Tom's and Leo's arms and had them escort her to the Manor.  The two Secret Service agents followed, at a discreet three paces behind.  It was going to be awhile before Eddie got away.  Arty and Howie hugged their Dad and followed the other Scouts back to the Manor.

Nick and Martha soon had the boys filling pots to boil the spaghetti, and the sauce was heating.   The Cub Scouts were spreading plastic tablecloths on the tables and putting the chairs up to the tables.  At five o'clock, (1700 hours) Neal opened the doors and the civilian guests entered to get their dinner.  About half an hour later, Mr. Little spotted a bread basket someone had set on the table with the plastic wear and napkins.  There was a sign that read, "Donations for the Scouts.  Help ALL the boys get to Summer Camp."  The basket was overflowing He watched as each Marine passing by put a five or in some cases, ten dollar bill in the basket.  Mr. Little took a good part of the cash so there was more room.

Andy Rolyat was making sure the servers had plenty of noodles, sauce and salad when Mr. Little caught up to him.  "Andy, who is the new Troop Scribe?"

"Jason Kempston.  He's one of the older Phoenix boys."  Nick looked around.  "There he is, carrying that big bowl of salad."

Mr. Little waited for Jason to finish.  "Jason. I have a very important job for you, as Troop Scribe."

"Yes, Sir."

Mr. Little pulled the wad of money out of his pocket and handed it over to Jason.  "There is a basket over there on the first table. I need you to keep checking it; don't let it overflow.  Ask Mr. Richards if there is someplace you can count and keep the money safe until Monday.  Let me know how much we collect.  Are there any questions?"

"Ah, this is a lot of money."

"Yes it is."

"I mean, ah, do you want an adult to keep track of it, too?"

"Nope.  A Scout is trustworthy."

"Wow!  Okay, yes Sir, you can count on me, Sir."

Mr. Little smiled and patted Jason on the back.  Jason hurried off to find Neal's Dad.  Mr. Little felt that little chill he got sometimes when he knew that he had just changed a boy's life.

Eddie finally made it into the banquet hall.  One of the Scouts led him over to the long table at the front of the room.  The Generals, Admiral, and Mrs. Reagan were all sitting there along with his family.  He was seated, a plate of spaghetti and a salad were brought to him.  Iced tea was poured in his glass and he was about to dig in when Dr. Hall, the minister at the Presbyterian Church stood and tapped energetically on a glass. (An empty plastic glass can make a lot of noise in the proper hands.)

When the room was quiet, Dr. Hall said, "I would like us to pause for a moment and give thanks for the food and the company, and for the very special Marine we have honored here today.  Amen."

Amens were heard around the room.  Nancy Reagan was one of the first to realize that he was done.  "I wish you had been the White House Chaplain, when Ronnie was there."

That of course brought laughter to the room, and everyone went back about the business of eating.  As people finished and left the tables, the Cub Scouts quickly gathered the trash and soon a new person was sitting and eating.

Poor Jason was kept busy gathering the donations and going up to Tom's office, counting it and placing it in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet.  The sum was staggering and still growing. 

As things began to calm down a bit, Eddie was thinking back over the Ceremony.  Something General McNeil said, 'I'll be glad to have you serving with me any time.'  Something about that wording wasn't quite like the General.  He glanced down the table and saw the General in question talking with Fred Clemets, and then Fred handed the General some papers.  Suddenly, something clicked and Eddie remembered that the last papers he had signed were NOT explained by Fred.

Standing, Eddie, in true Drill Sergeant form, said at about 180 decibels, "Clemets!"  

"Sorry, General, I've got to go!"  Fred started making tracks for the door.


That was way too close, and Fred froze.

Eddie put his arm over his lawyer's shoulder.  "Luuuuuuuuuuucyyyyyyyyyy, I thin' you got some splainin' to do."

"Ah, well, it isn't anything bad, really..." Fred tapered off.


"I wouldn't do anything to hurt you, now, would I?"

"You're in cahoots with the General?"

"It's all his idea.  You should talk to him."

"No, I think WE should go talk to him."  Eddie marched Fred over to the grinning General.  "Okay, General, just what kind of scheme have you cooked up this time?"

"I guess the innocent act won't fly.  Well, I'm the new Area 4 ROTC, Director; I need a Deputy Director for this area.  The specifications state that the man must be willing to work with youths, develop a workable program, and he must also have the retired rank of Major."

General Locman busted out laughing at the look on Eddie's face.  Mrs. Reagan tried to hide her amusement behind her napkin.

You got the Joint Chiefs to promote me, so you could have me as Deputy Director?  I don't believe it."

Nancy said, "He had some help.  I talked to Barbara myself, and she had her boy talk to the JCS and General Locman put in his two cents worth.  It was a group effort.  Of course, we had to have you sign the papers agreeing to it, before they went for the deal."

"Jeez©.  You could have asked."

General McNeil smiled at Eddie.  "I couldn't take the risk of you saying, 'No.'"

"I guess this means I will need to get some new 'Officer Uniforms.'  When do I have to report, Sir?"

"Dennis, I mean Eddie, the programs won't start until September, but we do have some planning to do, in the meantime.  I have rented some office space in Havendale and there is a nice apartment upstairs that will suit me just fine.  You can take whatever time you want.  This is your active reserve duty; the minimum required is two days a month and a week in the Summer or the equivalent.  We'll work out the details, later."

Not long after that, General Locman, Admiral Harris and Mrs. Reagan said their goodbyes and the helicopter was heard, noisily taking them away.  General McNeil had his car brought to the manor and he was driven back into town with his three star flag on the front of the car.

Jason was busy keeping up with the donation basket.  It seemed to fill in the time it took to count the cash he had just gathered.  Even the kids were putting coins into the basket.  He was still kind of in shock that Mr. Little trusted him to keep track of all this money.  He had never before had someone trust him so much.  There was no way he would let him down.

Finally, everyone had been served and the boys got their dinner.  All the boys had really worked hard to pull this off.  The Cub Scouts didn't protest too much when they were told it was time to go home.  The Boy Scouts returned to their Patrol areas and most were asleep long before Andy made his rounds to tell them to get in bed.  The only boy who was missing was Jason.  Nick found him when he went to tell Mr. Little.  Seeing Jason with Mr. Little, he gave the Scoutmaster a thumbs up and he went to bed.

"Jason, I just want to let you know that I am very proud of you tonight.  You carried out your assignment quite well.  So how did the donations do?"

"Mr. Little, I counted it three times to be sure I had the right amount, we got $12,356.17 in cash. We got a big check from that nice Lady, and from the Generals and the Admiral.  I think all the Marines put a five or ten dollar bill in, and the towns people were generous too.  I don't understand, they had all paid for their dinners already."

Mr. Little was still trying to get a handle on the fact that the donations were more than meal sales.  Together they had almost twice the amount, $10,560, needed for all the boys to go to Summer Camp.  This was absolutely incredible.  "I don't really understand either.  Amazing is all I can say.  Sometimes people's generosity can really surprise you.  I'll talk to Mr. Harris and see if you can go with me Monday morning to take it to the bank.  I think it would be a good experience for you."

"Sure, that would be good.  I'd like to see this through." Jason admitted.

Sunday morning, the boys were up, packed and in their Class A uniforms and ready for breakfast at seven o'clock (0700 hours).  Aunt Martha, Nick and the Haven Staff had prepared a fantastic breakfast feast for them, pancakes, sausage links, scrambled eggs and hash browns.  There was orange juice and milk in pitchers on a side table.  The boys attacked the food with gusto, and would have done the Marines proud in the amount consumed.  As the boys were getting ready to go to the church, the Marine trucks and buses began leaving.

Boys and parents were reunited at the church and during the announcements, Dr. Hall asked Mr. Little about the dinner.  Mr. Little stood and faced the congregation, "Thank you, Dr. Hall.  It is my pleasure to report that all our boys will be attending Summer Camp this summer."  There was a moment of silence then the congregation applauded.  The boys all had grins.  After church, everyone went home and the topic of conversation all over Havendale was the ceremony and dinner.


Author's Notes:


For those who haven't heard of the Soldiers Medal: Criteria: The Soldier's Medal is awarded to any person of the Armed Forces of the United States, or of a friendly foreign nation who, while serving in any capacity with the Army of the United States, distinguished him/herself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. The same degree of heroism is required as for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross. The performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy. Awards will not be made solely on the basis of having saved a life.