Shaler Eagle Scout reserves seat for Americans who are MIA
In a sports town like Pittsburgh, PNC Park and Heinz Field always have one empty seat each. The “chairs of honor” help sports fans remember military personnel who are prisoners of war or missing in action.
Nick Weising, 17, is working to bring a chair of honor to the Shaler Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9199 for his Troop 329 Eagle Scout project.
“It’s (the chair’s) supposed to be reserved almost for them, kind of like if they were to come home, this is where they would sit,” the Central Catholic High School junior said.
Weising plans to cement the donated Hussey Seating chair into the ground and partition it off with a chain-link barrier so that the seat remains open, should the service men and women return.
A plaque will note that more than 92,000 American soldiers have been unaccounted for, but not forgotten, since World War I, and that the unoccupied seat is dedicated to them.
Weising dug through shale to add top soil, mulch and shrubs to the area surrounding the seat.
According to Weising’s great uncle, John Stack, a Shaler VFW board member, the Scout is extending an existing concrete area, which contains a fire pit and an American flag.
Initially unsure of an Eagle Scout project idea, Weising knew that he wanted it to focus on veterans.
“I’ve always had massive respect for veterans, and my grandfather on my father’s side was actually a POW.
“He fought in World War II and he was captured at the Battle of the Bulge and he had a terrible time at that prisoner of war camp,” Weising said.
The Scout’s late grandfather, Robert, was reticent regarding his time in the 106 th Infantry. The soldier was around 90 pounds when his captors freed him.
When Weising was in eighth grade, he accompanied Stack to volunteer during VFW-sponsored bingo matches at the Southwestern Veterans Center in Lincoln-Lemington.
“Nick would stand behind two or three veterans and if they missed a number he would slide the number up for them and he would also call back if someone got a bingo and he would award the prizes to the people, too.
“They sacrificed a lot for the country and they’ve done things that I will probably never do and never could do,” the teenager said of the veterans he met.
“He just has a real high respect for people that have been in the military,” Stack, a Vietnam War veteran, said. “He just wants to know more and more about it.”
Stack had researched chairs of honor on his own because he wanted to see them installed at Pittsburgh’s sports arenas.
He found out that the stadiums already had the memorials around the same time that Weising asked if he knew of Eagle Scout project ideas. Stack suggested that his great nephew acquire a chair for the VFW’s courtyard.
A dedication ceremony, open to the public, is planned for 7 p.m. Sept. 21, which is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Inside the VFW’s canteen at 643 Wetzel Road, members will explain the significance of the empty seat at the organization’s POW/MIA table. Afterward, Weising and a VFW official will unveil the chair of honor outside.
Weising resides with his father, Dennis, and mother, Patricia, in Shaler.
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.