Girl Scouts award Uvalde victim Amerie Jo Garza with Bronze Cross

Girl Scouts award Uvalde victim Amerie Jo Garza with Bronze Cross

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In mid-May, 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza participated in a “bridging ceremony” with the Girl Scouts, where she and her fellow Juniors would have recited the Girl Scout Promise:

“On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times and to live by the Girl Scout Law.”

The fourth-grader had only joined the Scouts in December, but the “helping people at all times” part came naturally. She was known to defend a classmate in Uvalde, Tex., from bullies. She was always watching out for her 3-year-old brother, Zayne. In 2021, she’d been honored with her school’s Heart of Gold award.

On Friday, less than two weeks after the bridging ceremony, Amerie was recognized at another Girl Scouts presentation. This time, she was not there to accept the honors: The Robb Elementary School student was given a posthumous Bronze Cross, a national award for Scouts who risk their lives to save others, after she was shot dead by an 18-year-old gunman while apparently trying to call for help. The girl was among 19 children killed in the May 24 school shooting.

In a May 27 letter to Amerie’s family, Girl Scouts chief executive Sofia Chang said Amerie “embodies what it means to be a girl of courage, confidence, and character who makes the world a better place.”

“On May 24, 2022, Amerie did all she could to save the lives of her classmates and teachers and gave her life attempting to protect those around her,” Chang wrote. “Through her willingness to take decisive action in the midst of this devastating emergency, Amerie serves as a true example of leadership in action.”

Amerie’s stepfather, Angel Garza, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last week that after the shooter entered the elementary school, Amerie pulled out her phone and was attempting to call 911 when the gunman shot her. Amerie had been given the cellphone only two weeks earlier as a present for her 10th birthday, her stepfather said.

“She just died trying to save her classmates,” Garza said, weeping as he clutched the girl’s photograph. “She just wanted to save everyone.”

It’s unclear from official accounts whether Amerie was able to make contact with police. On Friday, authorities in Texas disclosed 911 calls from two students who desperately sought help as the shooter fired at their classmates; both of those students survived the massacre, according to Steven C. McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. McCraw said police had made “the wrong decision” by delaying entering the classroom and taking out the shooter.

Born in 2012, Amerie grew up in Uvalde surrounded by a large family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. She hated dresses, loved Play-Doh and devoured meals at Chick-fil-A, her favorite restaurant. When not in school, she spent her days swimming and drawing. She hoped to someday become an art teacher.

A spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas told The Washington Post in an email that Amerie was a Junior who had joined the organization around Christmas 2021. On Friday, her family was presented with a Kelly green sash worn by the Scouts in her rank, with the Bronze Cross pinned below her troop number, 7000.

“She deserved it,” Amerie’s grandmother Berlinda Arreola told People magazine, which first reported news of the award. “Our baby gave up her life for this, but she deserved it.”

In the days since Amerie was killed, her fellow Girl Scouts have paid tribute to her legacy. On Monday, at a Memorial Day parade in Cranford, NJ, a group of Brownies marched with felt patches bearing Amerie’s name pinned to their uniforms. On Tuesday, a troop in San Antonio wore purple, her favorite color, in her honor.

And as a crowd entered a church later that afternoon for Amerie’s funeral, several Girl Scouts filed into the vestibule to pay their respects.

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