ZANESVILLE, OHIO - Honoring fallen area soldiers attracted treasure hunters to the first Military Association Geocachers Picnic and Campout on Saturday.
Located in the camping area at Dillon State Park, the event was a tribute to Ohio military personnel who have been killed since 2001.
"I'm promoting keeping the memory of soldiers alive," said Arline Bennett(USA 45) of McConnelsville, organizer of the event.
Saturday's event featured a potluck lunch followed by a ceremony recognizing 21 fallen Ohio military personnel. A prayer and blessing was said by geocacher Tom Gill of Zanesville.
Geocaching involves hunting hidden containers holding treasures, or caches, with a Global Positioning System device. The basic idea is to locate the caches then to report your findings online.
"I put 21 caches out like a 21-gun salute," said Bennett.
Each cache was a tribute to a fallen Ohio soldier. Each name was read at the ceremony, and the families were given a card and inscribed dog tag.
Following the ceremony, the members were able to begin their search. Cords, or clues to the locations of the items, were given to the searchers. The items were hidden outside the camp area, along Ohio 146 and at Dillon Dam.
Bennett's daughter, Jennifer Powell of Lancaster, got her started geocaching about three years ago. Powell said that geocaching is enjoyed by several other family members, and is a good way to also enjoy nature in addition to honoring soldiers.
"It is pretty empowering to see that the soldiers are being honored," said Ryan Lehman(ShadowCachers) of Ward, Arkansas. Ryan, who is originally from Nelsonville, OH. He was on leave from active duty in the Air Force. He said he traveled the distance to be a part of Saturday's event, which also honored his cousin, James F. Kimple-Freer of Canal Winchester.
Lehman said that Kimple-Freer was a lance corporal in the Marines of the 1st MLG-CLB1 stationed in Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was killed in May in Anbar Province, Iraq, by a roadside bomb.
A variety of items are put inside the hidden containers, including magnetized ribbons supporting the troops, and red, white and blue pins and bracelets. Once one of the tribute caches is found, the person finding it must replace the item if he or she decides to keep it. The treasure hunter then must log onto the Web site to report the findings.
Some caches contain coins called traveling soldiers. Those who locate these coins must return them to a container in another location for another geocacher to find
"As we say on our Web site, many of us are retired so we are geocaching to get exercise and to put some meaning into our trips," said Roger Beal of Athens. Beal said that he searches for geocaches on his vacations. He recently returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon where he also hunted for them.
Bennett plans to make the MAGC tribute an annual event in order to honor all 202 Ohio soldiers who have died serving the country.
"I have a lot of compassion for all of our service people and fallen soldiers. I get goosebumps when I think about these young men and women," Bennett said.
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