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Local SAR chapter named best in state

By Laetitia Clayton - lclayton@nvdaily.com

For their efforts to document history and keep their heritage alive, members of the local chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution were recently recognized at the state society's annual meeting in Richmond.

The Colonel James Wood Jr. chapter, which includes the counties of Shenandoah, Frederick, Warren, Page, Clarke and western Loudoun, was named the best medium-sized chapter in the state. Also, the group's fire safety nominee was chosen as best in the state; the chapter was recognized for its grave-marking efforts; and one of its members, Robert Burk Andrews, was inducted as VASSAR color guard commander and committee chairman for 2010.

There are 26 VASSAR chapters in Virginia, said Berryville resident E. Ralph Pierce, this year's local chapter president, adding that the Colonel James Wood Jr. chapter is relatively new.

"We have really only been operational since November 2008," he said. The group has about 45 members so far, "and a goodly number of applicants waiting in the wings" while their paperwork goes through.

"I'm optimistic that our recruiting efforts will bring in new members this year," Pierce said.

Andrews, of Strasburg, is being recognized for his historical work -- he is also chairman of the VASSAR Historical Observances Committee -- by being inducted as the VASSAR color guard commander, Pierce said.

"He is a tremendous resource for our chapter and a dedicated member," Pierce said.

The Color Guard Committee schedules the state and local chapter color guards for participation or appearances in ceremonies across the state.

"We have presented colors at the Memorial Day services in Berryville, at the James Wood High School graduation last year and at some other local-type functions," Pierce said, such as flag awards or grave-marking ceremonies.

Each chapter in the state -- as well as the nation -- is encouraged to find graves of Revolutionary War veterans each year, said Pierce, who is also the chairman of the grave-marking registration committee. They place a stone marker at the grave site and a crest in close proximity. The James Wood chapter marked about 10 graves last year, he said.

"We are seeking graves that have not been registered," Pierce said, which includes filling out paperwork with the patriot's name and background and the grave location. "It could be anywhere in the country."

However, he added, most chapters stick to a certain geographical area when marking graves.

"It's easier in your local area," he said. "In this area, there are a lot [of graves] we know about that have not been registered."

Potential chapter members must be able to trace their ancestry to either a Revolutionary War soldier or someone who aided the war effort, Pierce said.

"They don't necessarily have to have been soldiers," he said, adding that one member's ancestor supplied wagons and food to soldiers during the war.

Pierce said the process of tracing one's ancestry can be interesting and rewarding.

"I think there are many people out there who can trace their ancestry back to the Revolutionary War," he said. "[But] they need to have an interest in history and patriotic activities" if they want to become a chapter member.

The Sons of the American Revolution is a society made up of men who can trace a direct line of descent from male or female patriots who fought for or supported the cause of American independence. The society's goals are historical, patriotic and educational, and members strive to preserve the memory of sacrifices made to create this country. The national chapter, based in Louisville, Ky., is more than 100 years old. Those interested in joining the Col. James Wood Jr. chapter can contact Pierce at 955-2999. For more information on the Virginia society, go online to www.sar.org/vassar/.


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