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San Benito
June 21, 2024

New historical marker, originally honoring Vietnam troops, placed outside Mission

Courtesy of Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council, Boy Scouts of America

On August 7, 2020, a new redwood sign, pictured here, was placed near the El Camino Real or “The King’s Highway” outside of the San Juan Bautista Mission to more clearly mark the site of a historical marker put there in the late 60s by local Scouts – Salinas Troop 233 to be exact – to honor Vietnam troops. 

Matt Gourley, a resident of Gonzalez, spearheaded the redwood sign project. The cool thing is that his father, former Scoutmaster Richard Gourley was part of the Troop that placed the original sign back in 1968!

Also on August 7 Richard Gourley, who is pictured here in his wheelchair, visited the site to accept a certificate of appreciation for his years of dedicated service to benefit Scouting. It was presented to him by Anthony Botelho, County of San Benito Board of Supervisors, District 2. 

More improvements to the site are planned in concert with the Mission’s pastor.

Historical background

In 1968, the Vietnam War was occupying newspaper headlines and television news.  University of California campuses and surrounding communities were experiencing anti-war demonstrations, some of them violent. A few older members of Boy Scout Troop 233 were drafted at age 18 and headed to South Vietnam.  Several times a month, handwritten letters would arrive from these former Scouts, thanking Richard and Troop 233 for the Scout camping trips and the training they had received as Scouts to always “be prepared.”  These letters were read aloud at Boy Scout meetings, and Richard sent handwritten letters in return, describing the monument Troop 233 planned to erect at the Mission, and in the process, keeping these former Scouts connected to home.

On March 1, 1968, parents of the Scouts loaded bicycles, foods, tents and sleeping bags into vehicles.  Community members who assisted the Scouts included Edwin Lindquist, manager of the Salinas newspaper, Jim Pratt, marketing director of the newspaper, Art Lehman, printer, and Ernie Cousteah and Ivin Bro, Greyhound bus drivers.

Boy Scouts, bicycles and backpacks were delivered to Rock Road, about five miles west of San Juan Bautista, and the boys bicycled to the San Juan Bautista mission. The Father serving at the Mission showed the Scouts how to harvest, cook and eat prickly pears from the garden cactus.  Locals joined the evening campfire to share local historical lore.  John Hurd, a geologist with Monterey County Roads, described the geology of the nearby San Andreas Fault.

The following morning, after an early morning visit to San Juan Bakery, the monument site was graded, and weeded. That original El Camino Real marker was put in place and finalized on March 3rd, 1968.

After mass on Sunday, Scouts and families gathered for a blessing and dedication of the marker. Despite all of the turmoil in the spring of 1968, a monument was built, families gathered to celebrate, and a blessing occurred. The Gourley family looks forward to honoring their father and the Boy Scouts of Troop 233 by continuing to beautify the area around this monument on the grounds of the historic Mission San Juan Bautista. 

On August 7, 2020, a new redwood sign, pictured here, was placed near the El Camino Real or “The King’s Highway” outside of the San Juan Bautista Mission to more clearly mark the site of a historical marker put there in the late 60s by local Scouts — Salinas Troop 233 to be exact — to honor Vietnam troops. 

Matt Gourley, a resident of Gonzalez, spearheaded the redwood sign project. The cool thing is that his father, former Scoutmaster Richard Gourley was part of the Troop that placed the original sign back in 1968!

Also on August 7 Richard Gourley, who is pictured here in his wheelchair, visited the site to accept a certificate of appreciation for his years of dedicated service to benefit Scouting. It was presented to him by Anthony Botelho, County of San Benito Board of Supervisors, District 2. 

More improvements to the site are planned in concert with the Mission’s pastor.

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