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Correspondent

SHIRLEY — Everybody there knew this Cub Scout pack meeting was special, from the carefully crafted agenda to the preponderance of uniforms and best behavior among the participants.

Several guests gathered at Center Town Hall, including three town notables in the front row: Athanace “Joe” Landry, commander of American Legion Post 183, legionnaire and retired fire department captain Gerard Wheeler and Selectman Enrico Cappucci.

Protocol at the Nov. 16 meeting was by the book, with flag bearers, a procession, and awards and badges handed out to Scouts who had earned them. When it came to Bobcat badges, which den leader Kathy Bourassa called “the first step on the Scouting trail,” parents were recognized, too.

“Because they couldn’t do this without their parents ” she said.

First on the program, Webelos-1 Scouts gave a speech, with lines shared by all. The topic was what it means to be an American citizen.

“Freedom to think, to say what you think, to worship as you choose; freedom to try and fail, to be free from want and fear ” Speakers said the guarantees of citizenship described in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are theirs because “our forefathers fought for them.”

Next, Webelos-2, who Bourassa pointed out are in their final phase as Cub Scouts and will soon move on, presented a 90-second “flag skit.” They mimed a military routine, from rising in the morning to bedding down at night, all done to the recorded strains of appropriate bugle calls, beginning with reveille and ending with taps.

Then came the unique segment of the evening.

Some time ago, second-graders in the Cub Scout Wolf den embarked on a project to give a brand new, very special American flag to the American Legion in honor of all town veterans.

They sent a letter to U.S. Sen. John Kerry, requesting to have a flag flown over the capitol in Washington, D.C. The senator did as requested, and the den presented that flag to the legion at the meeting.

Cappucci addressed the meeting first.

“We’re here tonight to honor our veterans, and I’m honored to be here,” he said. “What’s happening here is important. As Cub Scouts, you’re building a foundation for citizenship.”

Veterans served the nation, he said, and citizens can serve communities.

Landry, for example, served the public for years in his business.

Wheeler was a firefighter.

“I was a policeman,” said Cappucci.

As those who will be responsible for governing someday, it’s key to learn to be a good citizen, he said.

The second Continental Congress established the first official flag of the United States of America in 1777, said den leader Brian Scheufele.

“It’s been a symbol of freedom and unity ever since (It’s) a visual reminder of those who sacrificed in defense of our great nation,” he said.

The Scouts then brought in the flag, held high above the floor, folded it ceremoniously and presented it to Landry.

In a short acceptance speech, Landry thanked the Scouts. He said he was fortunate to have survived the Battle of the Bulge and hoped none of them would have to go to war. But he urged them to contribute as citizens.

“If you can do something for your community, do it,” he said. “You won’t regret it.”

Wheeler said he served six years in the National Guard during the Vietnam war but wasn’t sent overseas. Then he spent 33 years as a firefighter.

“I’m proud to be a veteran, to have been of service to the town and to be a member of the American Legion,” he said.

A soldier in camouflage uniform stood with the crowd to applaud. It was Cub Scout John Barcomb’s dad, Michael, a lieutenant commander in a Connecticut Army Reserve unit. The family lives in Shirley. Barcomb served in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2005.

Once, he was a scout, too, he said.