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War hero celebrates Boy Scouts' 100th anniversary
By Sheila Ahern | Daily Herald Staff

The Boy Scouts celebrate their 100th anniversary during a Fourth of July event at Arlington Park racetrack.


Mark Black | Staff Photographer

Medal of Honor recipient Sammy L. Davis leads a large group of Boy Scouts parading during a Fourth of July event at Arlington Park racetrack.


Mark Black | Staff Photographer

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Published: 7/5/2010 12:00 AM | Updated: 7/5/2010 9:59 AM

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Sammy L. Davis - also known as the real Forrest Gump - calls Freedom, Ind., his home.

On Sunday, he was just as patriotic at Arlington Park, surrounded by hundreds of Scouts and countless American flags as he celebrated the Boy Scouts of America's 100th Anniversary. "Trust me, the lessons you are learning now will help you the rest of your lives," said Davis, a former Scout himself and one of only 90 living recipients of the Medal of Honor.

Davis received his medal for heroic service under fire during the Vietnam War. In 1967 Davis was a Private First Class in the 9th Infantry Division when he was seriously injured after his unit came under heavy mortar attack in Cai Lay. Despite his injuries, Davis crossed a river on an air mattress to help rescue three wounded American soldiers.

Film footage of President Lyndon Johnson putting the medal around Davis's neck appeared in the movie "Forrest Gump" - with Tom Hanks' head substituted for Davis's.

On Sunday, more than 400 Scouts, representing Cub packs, Boy Scout troops, venturing crews and Aquila troops, marched down the track and into the winner's circle.

There, Davis, 63, talked about his scouting days that began when he was 9 years old.

"Reporters often ask me where I learned to do the things I did in Vietnam, and I tell them I learned it when I was a Boy Scout," said Davis, who also earned a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.

After the parade Davis was given a plaque and an official Boy Scout harmonica, which he used to play "Shenandoah" for the crowd. His mom sent him his first harmonica when he was stationed in Vietnam, and he's been playing ever since, he said.

Richard L. Duchossois, chairman of Arlington Park, is also a former Scout.

"I want to congratulate the Boy Scouts, and I hope the next 100 years are as great as the first 100," Duchossois said.

The afternoon's outdoor activities at the track also included a Pinewood Derby race with 120 Cub Scouts, Army display with Humvees, a dog tag making machine, leather craft and wood carving booths, a Civil War era re-enactment booth and more.

The Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910 by W.C. Boyce, a Chicago publisher, after a London visit with British General Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the original scouting movement in 1907.

Chartered in 1926, the Northwest Suburban Council, located in Mount Prospect, serves more than 16,000 youth and 4,000 adult Leaders in 34 Northwest suburban communities. The second public event, "ScoutTrek 2010," will be held in Busse Woods on Sept. 25.