(May 29, 2018) — President Donald Trump honored veterans by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday morning. Patriots across the country—including members of Troops of St. George—took time on Memorial Day to honor service members who died for our freedom.
Andy Pontzer, who leads Troop 303, in Lexington Park, Md., gathered a group of boys to put flags on the graves of 150 veterans on Friday afternoon.
“Our troop teamed up with our parish’s Knights of Columbus last year to do this, and it’s become a tradition to honor all of the veterans in our parish cemetery,” he said. “We would have had more than eight boys from the troop, but most of them were in school. These boys are homeschooled, so they had more flexibility to come out on a Friday.”
Honoring the fallen
Pontzer, who is also a member of his parish’s Knights of Columbus, Council 9986, said that when he found out the Knights were putting flags on veterans’ graves, he knew it would be a good fit for the Troops of St. George to partner with them.
“It’s a great way to honor the veterans,” he explained. “There are a lot of graves, and the boys really enjoyed this. They had to pick out the veterans’ graves by reading the headstones. Most of them are marked with the branch—Army, Navy, Air Force—and the dates. Many of them are local names that people know from the area because there’s a large navy base nearby.”
Troop 303 is based at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Lexington Park. The city is also home to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, 68 miles south of Washington, D.C.
Patriotism is in the blood of the local community, Pontzer said.
“They enjoyed going to the cemetery. Their parents talk to the boys about what Memorial Day means. The Knight who joined us—Tom Chayka—also gave them a talk about what we’re doing and why before we went out there. The boys recognize the importance of honoring the veterans.”
Honoring St. George
Troop 303 was founded two years ago, and Pontzer says they chose “303” to honor St. George, who was martyred in 303 AD.
“I wanted to start a troop in 2013, but there were delays, so we started in 2016. During the in-between time, I was doing hikes with the boys and families in the area, keeping things going after we left the Boy Scouts. The troop has about 12 boys from five families. I have three boys, and the oldest will turn 18. He just graduated from high school, and I have a son who is 15 and one that is 13.”
Troop 303 goes on regular hikes, and they take two camping trips a year.
“We meet weekly—every Thursday—for 90 minutes,” Pontzer explained. “We try to make it as boy-led as possible. The older boys do instruction and training on outdoor skills for the younger ones. When we go camping, we’re usually in two patrols, dividing the boys up so younger boys and older boys can camp, cook and do chores together.”
The troop’s Catholicity is treasured by the boys and their fathers, he said.
“Most boys come from strong Catholic families, so we don’t have to instruct them much. They get that at home and in their parishes. We’re blessed because they all know the rosary, they know the sacraments, and most of them are altar servers. I love that the saints and sacraments are right in there with everything we’re doing.”
Another aspect of the Troops of St. George that Pontzer, a former Eagle Scout, treasures is that fathers are members of the troop with their sons.
“This organization is as valuable for the fathers as it is for the boys,” he said. “It allows dads to have scheduled time with their sons. We have two boys without fathers. One boy was adopted and doesn’t have a father figure around. The other boy’s father died of cancer five years ago. His mom sees the value of her son being part of our troop. Great things are happening for these boys.”
God bless the Troops of St. George, and God bless America!
Members of Troop 303 in Lexington Park, Md., place American flags on the graves of U.S. soldiers during Memorial Day weekend