Sunday, May 16, 2004

Sixty-one area girls got a lesson in American citizenship, history and patriotism yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery.

As part of the Women’s Memorial’s “Just 4 Kids” program, two communications officers from Marine Corps Base Quantico trained the girls — many of them Brownie and Junior Girl Scouts from Maryland and Virginia — to march in formation while calling cadence.

“About face!” Lt. Ann Bernard shouted at two columns of weary faces during a 20-minute drill.

“Trace the ‘C,’ ease about!” the 15 girls yelled back, whirling around.

Lt. Jessica DeJesus , the event’s co-drill instructor, said she was delighted at the chance to teach military virtues to the girls.

“It’s always good to show young women that there’s life after Britney Spears,” Lt. DeJesus said. “We’re taking it pretty easy on them today.”

Leigh Anne Killian , public-relations coordinator for the Women’s Memorial, said “Just 4 Kids” began in 1999 — two years after the memorial’s dedication.

“It’s an extension of our mission, which is to honor the wartime service of women,” Mrs. Killian said. “We want the girls to learn that both women and men have supported our nation.”

In addition to learning cadences yesterday, the children got dance tips from five members of the James Madison High School step team and observed a performance and presentation by seven members of the Old Guard Army Fife and Drum Corps, a 3rd U.S. Infantry unit which performs at presidential arrival ceremonies on the White House lawn.

Staff Sgt. Lutricia Fields, yesterday’s drum major for the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, led a discussion on the history of the group’s Revolutionary War-era uniforms and instruments.

Scout leader Marie Pearson, 42, who brought six Brownie Scouts from Troop 5279 in Sterling, Va., said parents probably enjoyed the drilling portion of the program more than their children did.

“My kids listen better to strangers than they do to me,” said Mrs. Pearson, as she watched her daughter Leah, 7, make sour looks during the drill. “I think that’s how it goes for most parents.”

Emily Grundy, 10, of Rockville said afterward that she felt like a seasoned veteran.

“Let’s see you do that,” Emily told her mother, Kay. “Seriously. I’d like to see you try it.”

Mrs. Grundy, whose daughter is a Junior Girl Scout in Troop 4779, said she was attending her first drilling session after seeing it advertised in a Girl Scouts publication.

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