Waccamaaw Seniors

In addition to 100 years of veteran and community support, the American Legion has a lot to be proud of. The American Legion Post 197 of Pawleys Island is now named Robert T. Hawkins Post 197 after one of its founding members passed away recently. Their 2019 Annual Recognition Ceremony, held at the Waccamaw Public Library on Saturday, August 24 honored both their academic award recipients and Palmetto Boys State delegates.

“What happens is the school recommends the boys and then we interview them,” said Post Commander Glenn Hero in reference to the 10 Boys State delegates who traveled this summer to Anderson College. The nation-wide Boys State program, which was created in 1949, is held in all fifty states each summer and was designed to teach the values of government, leadership and citizenship. The rising Waccamaw High seniors participated in such activities as mock elections, public speaking and a trip to the capitol. The group follows in the path of notable Americans such as Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, entertainer Jon Bon Jovi, and South Carolina’s own NFL standout Vonnie Holiday.

Paula Hero, an auxiliary member of Murrells Inlet Post 178, gave a multi-media presentation that underscored the opportunities available to the Boys State honorees for completing the program. “You are part of that brothership and fellowship for the rest of your life,” said Hero who encouraged the “staters” to emphasize their attendance on all future scholarship and college applications. “If you show Boys State on your app, you don’t automatically get another scholarship, but you become eligible to apply for additional scholarships because you attended Boys State.” One such scholarship is endowed by the Samsung Corporation in appreciation to the U.S. Veterans for their service during the Korean War.

Mrs. Hero then asked Waccamaw High Senior Robert Wade Maring to approach the podium and share a little about his experience. The varsity golfer began by thanking the American Legion for sponsoring the Boys State Program, calling it a “great experience where he really enjoyed the camaraderie.” As a “Savannah City” resident where he met “guys from Hemingway, guys from Aiken, guys from Greenville,” Maring was elected “Rutledge County Attorney” in the process and says he still talks to a lot of his new friends that he met the second week of June.

Veteran and author Alan Wright then addressed the group and presented each promising senior with a copy of General William H. McRaven’s book “Make Your Bed.”

With their new books in hand, and the reception underway, the remaining honorees shared privately their memories of their life-changing week.

Musician and tennis player Covington Loftus, who is also on the academic team, stated he will always remember the awards night and the talent show. The marching band member was a “Santee City Council” candidate during his week of making connections at Boys State.

Thomas Cook, who is a National Honor Society member, a soccer player and captain of the wrestling team, described his time at Boys State “unlike any experience I’ve ever had.” While there, Cook lived in the city of “Salkehatchie” where he served on the city council.

Key Club, football player and National Honor Society member Markell Strang made a mayoral bid while meeting life-long friends in his city of “Wateree.” The athlete explained his week by claiming it was unlike anything he had done before and that he was so glad he went.

James Sebastian Stafford, a surfer and National Honor Society member served as “Federalist Party Chairman” and made a run for county treasurer in his assigned city of “Wando.” He summarized, “The experience ended up being a blast despite the formal nature” and that he will always remember how everyone in the auditorium was chanting his city name.

Track and field athlete Cameron Rivers Shealy cited the “Dead or Alive” motorcycle entrance as his most memorable Boys State experience. The academic team and National Honor Society member resided in “Waccamaw City,” where he ran for both city council and Superintendent of Education.

Golfer and academic team member Joshua Hunt Grafe was elected Secretary of the Senate and ran for attorney general. His last night in his city of “Saluda” stood out most for Grafe, who enjoyed the growth of brotherhood over the week.

Freedom Reader and Youth NAACP member Evan Carter aspired to the role of sheriff in his city of “Rocky.” The Xbox enthusiast reflected on his week in the Boys State program, “You start off wondering what am I doing but you end up thinking why am I leaving?”

For his academic achievement, Colby Eckard was also honored with a medal and a cash award. In addition to working two part-time jobs, Eckard also finds time to fill the role of servant leader at All Saints youth group. As a testament to the evolving moments of teen-age life, the sports fan shared that his best memory of high school was “beating Carvers Bay in football last night.”

Michael Shaw Keogh III and Kyle Pence were listed for academic awards but unable to attend. Caleb Ratz and Matthew McCants were listed as Boys State honorees but also unable to attend.

As the school year begins, the American Legion is seeking high school speakers (Grades 9-12) to compete in their upcoming oratorical contest that awards over $40,000 in national scholarships. Details can be found at legion.org regarding deadlines and procedures.