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Patriotic Article
By Airman 1st Class Joe McFadden

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Deployed Sailor, Scout Son Reunite at Jamboree
(August 6, 2010)

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U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Pickens smiles at his son Travis, a Boy Scout, as he arrives at the mountain boarding station at the Boy Scouts of America's 2010 National Scout Jamboree, July 30, 2010. Pickens, recently deployed to Iraq and used his midterm deployment leave to return to see his son and participate in the 100th Boys Scouts of America National Scout Jamboree.
Photo by Senior Airman Andrew Lee
  FORT A.P. HILL, Va. (August 2, 2010) — There are many places that U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Pickens could have spent his mid-tour leave from Iraq: a theme park trip with his family; a romantic getaway with his wife; or maybe just some peaceful alone time back in the United States.

But even after five months of his job as deputy chief of civilian military plans with U.S. Forces-Iraq at the Embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone, Pickens decided to spend his vacation as a safety observer at the mountain boarding section of the 2010 National Scout Jamboree here, July 26 - Aug. 4.

Momentarily trading the harsh heat and windy sands of Iraq for his leave, he traveled the more than six thousand mile journey to stack small bales of hay and monitor dozens of complete strangers
safely roll down a hill on a board.
While most people would probably not choose any of these elements for their time off, Pickens made the decision all for one reason: to see his son Travis, a 16-year-old Eagle Scout, attend his first Jamboree.

“I had a little bit of a journey,” he said. “I left Baghdad International Airport on the 18th of July. I arrived here the 21st and jumped right in with everyone else so we could setup.”

Pickens met up with his son when his troop, #1619 from Corpus Christi, Texas, arrived here July 26.
“The feeling of only being able to see him on a webcam and then really seeing him is just unbelievable,” Travis said. “He comes from Iraq to spend his R-and-R at the 100th Anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America with me.”

Pickens' wife Zosie and youngest daughter Jesta flew up from Corpus Christi the next day. When he's not at mountain boarding section with the scouts, he spent time with his family while visiting the local area.
“My family is used to me going out to sea and being gone several months,” he said. “But after not seeing them for five months, it was just like a homecoming.”

A former Life Scout, Pickens has been involved in Scouting for nearly 20 years as an adult. He's also served as a scout leader while stationed in Japan and worked closely with two troops in Iraq since 2004.

“We're trying to send them that same message so they see that the United States is trying to help them on all fronts,” he said.

Pickens said that be being here as a safety observer at the mountain boarding section he hoped to have touched the life of at least one scout.
  August 1, 2010 -- Sailor, Lt. Cmdr. James Pickens, U.S. Forces Iraq (USF-I), J-5 Strategy, volunteering his mid-tour leave time from his current deployment in Iraq with his family and the National Scout Jamboree 100 year anniversary celebration at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. Produced by Staff Sgt. Michael Williams.
“Scouting means a lot to me,” he said. “I hope that by being here I'm helping to develop character and show sacrifice and commitment to the service of others. I hope it gives them a memory for life and something they're going to carry with them.”

As for his last statement, his presence seemed to make a lifelong memory for at least one scout: Travis.
“This is one of the biggest things we share together,” Travis said. “Some people would go somewhere else to have a relaxing moment, but he came out to be with the scouts. This is great, and I am proud of him every day of the week.”

And before he packs his gear, says goodbye to his family and heads back to Iraq, Pickens said he never second-guessed the time-consuming nature of the trip at all.

“I know a lot of guys I've talked to have said I'm crazy,” he said. “I'm sure the chaplains who recommended I get some rest aren't looking fondly on this, but I had to make this work. There's only going to be one 100th Anniversary Jamboree, and I got to spend it with my son. I wouldn't have given this up for anything else in the world.”

By Airman 1st Class Joe McFadden
Joint Task Force – National Scout Jamboree
Copyright 2010

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