Good things sometimes come out of horrible situations. That is the case with a group new to Northern Virginia called Guitars Not Guns.
Earlier this year, in a tragic shooting at the IHOP restaurant at Duke Street and I-395, young Aaron Brown, a 2005 graduate of Annandale High School and an Eagle Scout, was killed by an off-duty Alexandria police officer. The circumstances of the shooting still are being addressed by Alexandria authorities, but Aaron’s parents wanted to find some way to honor his memory and help other youth. Aaron was an accomplished guitar player, and a search turned up a California organization that offers guitars and music lessons as an alternative to violence. Thus, the Aaron Brown Chapter of Guitars Not Guns was born.
Guitars Not Guns provides guitars and lessons to foster children, at-risk youth and other deserving kids who want to improve their lives through music. There are many ways you can help the new chapter become established and provide services. Skip Chaples, the president of the Aaron Brown chapter and Aaron’s Boy Scout leader, suggests a number of exciting and satisfying ways to participate. Become a volunteer. Donate a guitar. Be a teacher. Volunteer your band! Write grants, help with phone calls and concerts, repair guitars. No child is turned away for lack of funds, but donations are needed. Lessons for eight weeks cost $320; an acoustic beginner guitar is $150. All donations are appreciated, regardless of amount, and are tax-deductible. Contact Guitars Not Guns-VA at P. O. Box 1141, Springfield, VA 22151, or call 703/644-1311. With community support, something good can come out of tragedy.
American Legion Post 1976 in Annandale conducted a dignified flag ceremony last Saturday as Legion members and Boy Scout Troop 990 gathered to respectfully retire more than 100 American flags. Some flags were weather-beaten; others were faded or torn. Each flag was carefully examined by uniformed Boy Scouts and certified by Legion members that the flag was no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country. Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Code recommends that such a flag should be destroyed in a “respectful manner, preferably by burning.” Each flag was lowered carefully into a 55-gallon drum that was attended by Fairfax County firefighters. As one flag was consumed, another gently would be lowered, and another, and another. After the ashes had cooled, they would be buried according to tradition.
It was interesting to watch this calm and patriotic ceremony, which was the antithesis of television coverage of flag-burning protests around the world. There was no shouting, no political overtones, simply a respectful salute to banners that had served us well. American Legion posts across the region have installed receptacles for donations of American flags ready for retirement. Look for the red, white and blue “postal” box, and be assured that your flag will receive the appropriate retirement when it’s time.