GRAFTON—With a military rich history, it should come as no surprise that Grafton and Taylor County take pride in the veterans who have shown great bravery. Each year, the veterans give a little something back to area youths, in the form of a fun, yet educational camp.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars sponsors a summer camp at Camp Dawson for children ages 11 to 14 that allows them to learn unique practices that they might not learn elsewhere.
West Virginia Senior Vice Commander Trenton Pauley is responsible for the organization of the camp, which has a mission of providing youths with an understanding and appreciation of patriotism, while meeting other children from throughout the state and making lasting memories and friendships.
“I’ve been involved in the camp in the past and I am excited to be a part of this one,” shared Pauley. “The VFW Youth Camp just keeps getting better.”
The week-long camp, which has been in operation since 1960, is a military-style camp, teaching structure to its attendees.
“The youth camp helps teach the children how to be disciplined and how to follow commands,” Pauley noted.
The event hosts classes for the youths to take part in, including archery and self-defense. However, in their downtime, campers are able to spend time climbing the rock wall or swimming and can participate in a talent contest.
He revealed that the camp also allows children to learn about the United States, as well as the importance of the American Flag and why they should honor it.
“During their stay at the camp, we have classes that help instill patriotism in the youth who attend,” commented Pauley. “They are able to learn about the importance of the flag. They even get to take part in a flag retirement ceremony.”
During the ceremony, flags that are no longer deemed fit to fly are disposed of.
“We teach the kids each step of properly disposing of the flag, and explain to them why each step is done,” he noted.
Pauley reported that first the grommets, stars and stripes are cut from the flag. Each youth is given a piece of the flag to place in a fire, but before their section can be burned, each child must recite a ceremonial statement first.
“I have seen children who have had no previous connection with the flag become emotional while reading their statement,” he shared.
The West Virginia Veterans of Foreign Wars Youth Camp, which is operated on donations, is open to any child, male or female, between the ages of 11 and 14. The cost of sending a child to camp is approximately $200, but that cost isn’t incurred by the participant.
“The only cost to the camper is travel between their home and Camp Dawson,” Pauley disclosed.
This year’s camp will be held July 8-14, but it is never too soon to secure a spot. Those wishing to attend the camp will need to complete an application and must provide a copy of their birth certificate. A downloadable application can be found at wvvfw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/VFW-Youth-Camp-Application-2018.pdf.
Completed applications will need to be mailed to either address listed on the application or can be submitted to any VFW Post 3081 member, before July 8.
“The summer youth camp is a great time for the kids to get together and socialize, as well as learn to work together,” shared Pauley. “We hope to see you there!”