This weekend, our nation pauses to remember the nearly three million service members who have given their lives in the defense of freedom since our nation’s founding in 1776. During this pandemic year, the value and preciousness of life and health is spotlighted even more. We collectively know that so many veterans over our nation’s founding had the fortune of coming home and we honor them every November for Veteran’s Day. As an Air Force veteran who deployed countless times since 9/11, I am reminded every Memorial Day that when I came home, we still have a responsibility to serve. It’s a continuation of service that honors our country and those who fell defending it. The famous quote “A Veteran - whether active duty, retired, or national guard or reserve - is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America, for an amount of 'up to and including my life'" captures the solemnness that service members provide when they enlist.
I am honored to have moved from serving with my military band of brothers and sisters to a band of sisters. Girl Scouts understand sacrifice so well and service too. We honored 17 National Volunteer recognitions this past month and 33 Council recognitions this past week. Recently writing a letter to our award recipients, I used the quote “Volunteers don’t have time, they have heart.” That heart translates to service. Service to their community, service to an idea bigger than themselves, and service to building Girls of courage, confidence and character. As this pandemic hit, Girl Scouts never stopped. Our Girl Scouts started making masks, they visited and supported senior centers, they ramped up cookie donations to health care workers--they never took their eye off the ball of helping others. Our Girls did these kind acts but a volunteer was never far away. Volunteers have heart, a heart for helping just like our veterans have a heart for defending freedom.
The veteran’s heart started beating following the lead of George Washington’s example 200 plus years ago in Valley Forge. The Girl Scout’s heart likewise followed Juliette Gordon Low’s lead, growing stronger by the years. The 1918 Pandemic, Women’s suffrage, the World War I Homefront, Girl Scouts, though in our infancy, served them all and the original volunteer, Juliette, said “This is our calling!” Freedom of the human spirit is a noble calling and something Americans have decided is worth defending. For Girl Scouts, our noble calling is to make the world a better place and we are doing just that. Despite the current pandemic, our Girl Scouts have generated near 27,000 boxes to be donated to service members and our healthcare workers. That is a lot of cookies, but the amazing part is this is 3,000 more cookies than last year during a record cookie sale. We only got only half way thru! Girls of character—it is who we are. And to do that, it is a sacrifice of time our volunteers give willingly just like our service members do. Hence, service and sacrifice is in our DNA, it has been for 108 years. We as Girl Scouts will always have that as part of our bloodlines. Juliette, stricken with cancer, defied doctor orders in her last years of life to visit meetings on the East Coast to ensure the Girl Scout flower completely bloomed before her passing. That is sacrifice in the truest sense of the word, and to her credit, the Girl Scout has blossomed with over 50 million “flowers” who joined the movement. This Memorial Day, we solemnly remember the veterans who gave their all. I honor as well this Council’s service and sacrifice—facing one of biggest challenges since our founding in 1933, our volunteer’s say what Rosey the Riveter said: “We Can Do It!”
--Brian Newberry, Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho CEO