HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Service to one’s country was on the minds of more than 200 youth as they sweated in the warm June afternoon sun at the Hill Aerospace Museum, washing planes, planting flowers, filling areas with fresh gravel, and adding mulch to garden beds.
As part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Layton Kays Creek Stake’s Youth Conference, a gathering for teens age 14 to 18, the group spent time focusing on service for their country.
For the participants, it was an afternoon to show respect for those who had flown the planes prior to their arrival at the museum. “We are here for our country and to show appreciation for the men and women who have served our country,” said Gary Petersen, the stake’s Young Men’s President.
Aerospace Heritage Foundation of Utah Executive Director Robb Alexander was in shock when the group showed up.
“I’m overwhelmed with what’s going on inside and outside right now. I had no idea it would be such a large group of youth, by far the largest group I have seen volunteer here,” said Alexander, who has worked with the museum for nearly three years. “Some of these windows haven’t been washed in 30 years, in addition to the fact that the birds love leaving deposits on our airplanes.”
Since the Air Force has had to decrease its funding, the museum has been limited in keeping up with maintenance. All of the items brought in for the grounds were donated by various groups working with the church youth group, so mulch, rocks and flowers were brought in — all things the museum desperately needed, but didn’t have the budget to purchase.
Additionally, the list of things to do around the museum was ever-growing. Alexander knew he could do them himself, but with his museum duties, there was never enough time left for cleaning up around the museum.
“Having them come here makes it look like people really do care. It’s a no-brainer. We live close and love this museum, so in the spirit of service, this is beyond anything I could have imagined to get everything done. Many hands really do make light work,” Alexander said.
Twelve-year-old Luke Baldwin never thought he would be cleaning an old wartime airplane.
“Not only was this cool and fun, but we got to focus on helping other people who have put a lot of work into putting their life on the line for our country,” Baldwin said. “I think it’s only right that we remember them and their sacrifice.”
As the leaders worked alongside the youth, Petersen talked about the opportunity for them to do service.
“It’s one thing to hear it, but to do it and make the sacrifice with sore muscles, getting dirty or doing something they’ve never done before, is the true nature of service that pays off as they go into the rest of their life,” Petersen said. “It’s good to learn how to work hard. It’s sad because there seem to be fewer opportunities for youth to work hard.”
Twelve-year-old Tyler Cook thought the day was going to be a challenge, but he learned otherwise. “We got up early and started working on all this stuff, and it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be because we’ve been having fun working with our friends, and it’s nice to participate in a cause that helps other people.”