06/05/12 — Rangers pay their respects to heroes

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Rangers pay their respects to heroes

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 5, 2012 1:46 PM

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Youths from Royal Rangers Outpost 46, at The Bridge Church, participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in May. From left are Allen Melrose, 7, Levi Bowers, 11, Quinn Davis, 14, and Gage Bowers, 12.

For more than 25 young boys who are members of the Royal Rangers, an organization similar to the Boy Scouts, a recent chance to visit Arlington National Cemetery and to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns was an experience they will never forget.

The Rangers, who follow a Christian-themed program, hailed from Outpost 46, which is sponsored by The Bridge church.

On May 5, after nearly a year of trying to get the opportunity arranged, they were rewarded by being allowed to participate in the solemn ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Four leaders of the group were chosen to lay the wreath: Quinn Davis, 14, Gage Bowers, 13, his younger brother, Levi Bowers, 11, all home-schooled, and Allen Melrose, 6, a first-grader at Northwest Elementary School.

"I think my favorite part was when the guard came up and told us what to do," Quinn said. "To be honest, I was really nervous but he was really nice."

"He told us that it's all 'straight back,' we had to be mature, we can't be out of order," added Gage.

"We had to shake hands, there were steps that you walk down, we had to (lead) with the left foot," explained Levi, who admitted it was "a little hard" at times because of the new shoes he was wearing that hadn't been broken in before the ceremony.

"I think we had to walk a mile," Gage said.

When it came down to the six-minute ceremony, though, when they heard the "about face" command, it was a finely choreographed moment as all turned and faced the crowd in unison.

"I was so proud, I was almost speechless," said Cliff Grice, the outpost commander, who came up with the idea for the trip after witnessing a similar ceremony at Arlington last year.

Grice admitted to shedding a few tears as he watched his charges do their duty.

"They did everything by the book," he said proudly.

Even one of the guards acknowledged how well the Rangers carried out their roles, Quinn said.

"After we were done, (he) actually asked us four if we had done this before because 'It looked like you have,'" he said.

The experience had an affect on the boys that they will probably never forget, Grice said. It even left Levi contemplating pursuing the two-year commitment required to become a guard at the cemetery one day.

"It's very rare that people get to do what we did," Gage said.

"I think one of the things that made (it meaningful) is we kind of all represented the people who died and would never be known for what they did," Quinn said.

"There were over 5,000 people that died, that we didn't know their names," Gage said. "It was just an honor to lay a wreath for them."

The monument, formerly referred to as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, is dedicated to American service members who died without their remains being identified. School and civic groups are often invited to participate in the commemorative ceremony.

But getting the Wayne County group in line for the chance took a while.

"It took us from July until October to get the appointment and we were turned down twice," said Grice.

But his persistence paid off when they were notified that they would be part of the program in May.

"We did a review of Arlington and how it came to be -- about the first man that was buried there, just the history of it and what it meant to be buried in Arlington because they had served their country in some way, what an honor it was to be in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier," Grice said.

He wanted to make sure every detail was done right, even down to the appearance of the wreath. He had a special one made by Casey Garden Center and wired to Arlington for the ceremony.

"Martha Casey made it," he said. "It was primarily yellow roses. Most we saw were greenery, so this was impressive. One of the soldiers when we were checking it in, said, 'Wow.'"