The date was Jan. 8, 1974. It was not a birthday, but it would be a day never forgotten. That is the day a young red headed Boy Scout received his Eagle Scout rank.
That day would change my life and put me on my path towards my career, my beautiful family and a life of service helping others. Now more than 44 years later I am still involved in scouting and proud to be an Eagle Scout.
Many people wonder why work so hard for the Eagle Scout Rank. It is not an easy rank or honor to attain.
Sherry Smothermon-Short writes in her post (www.verywellfamily.com/the-value-ofearning the-eagle-scout-rank-2958843): The Value of Earning the Eagle Scout rank, some valuable thoughts.
“The Boy Scouts of America’s highest rank is the Eagle Scout. This prestigious award is widely recognized throughout the country even by those who aren’t familiar with the requirements. The fact that the rank is based on accomplishing a set of national standards rather than some arbitrary qualifications makes being an Eagle Scout worthwhile.
“Becoming an Eagle Scout takes perseverance and work. Boy Scouts have to earn all of the ranks in order starting with Tenderfoot (soon to be Scout). Here is a list of the activities that the Boy Scout will complete on his journey to Eagle Scout:
• Earn 21 merit badges.
• Serve a minimum of 16 months in a leadership position.
• Go camping for a bare minimum of 24
• Propose, plan, and carry out an Eagle service project.
• Have a minimum of seven scoutmaster
conferences and five boards of review.
“That’s a pretty tall order for teenage boys. In fact, only about seven percent of all Boy Scouts earned their Eagle rank in 2013. Since it takes so much work, why do boys do it? Some are mature enough to understand the impact that having the award will have on their lives. Others are encouraged by their parents and Scoutmasters.”
The importance of scoutmasters, assistant scoutmasters and other leaders can hardly be simplified. There are so many ways a dedicated leader will impact the lives of a youth. Studies have shown the most stable adults are people who had more than just their family to learn from. For the scout leaders, helping them stay on their trail to the Eagle Scout and becoming a leader in today’s society, is a duty that few leaders take for granted.
Every Eagle Scout starts out learning and advancing through the trail of ranks. Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle They repeat the scout oath to help them learn the values of Scouting.
The Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
An Eagle Scout is someone who can be counted on. If you are fan of the survival shows, often someone with scouting background does well, or wins.
There is an older piece used in many Eagle Scout Courts of Honor that still says it well.
One Hundred Scouts (Author unknown)
Of any one hundred boys who become Scouts, it must be confessed that thirty will drop out in their first year. Perhaps this may be regarded as failure, but in later life all of these will remember that they had been Scouts and will speak well of the program.
Of the one hundred, only rarely will one ever appear before a juvenile court judge. Twelve of the one hundred will be from families that belong to no church. Through scouting these twelve and many of their families will be brought into contact with a church and will continue to be active all their lives. Six of the one hundred become pastors or leaders in their church.
Each of the one hundred will learn something from scouting. Almost all will develop hobbies that will add interest throughout the rest of their lives. Approximately one half will serve in the military, and in varying degrees profit from their scout training. At least one will use it to save another person’s life and many will credit it with saving their own.
Four of the one hundred will reach the Eagle rank, and at least one will later say that
he valued his Eagle above his college degree. Many will find their future vocation through merit badge work and scouting contacts. Seventeen of the one hundred boys will later become scout leaders and will give leadership to thousands of additional boys.
On average only one in four boys in America will become scouts, but it is interesting to know that of the leaders of the nation in business, religion and politics, three of the four were scouts.
The story will never end. Like the “Golden Pebble” of service dropped into the human sea it will continue to radiate in ever-widening circles, influencing the characters of men down through unending time.
The question persists, what makes an Eagle Scout and why are they different than most.
Scouting is a family-involved activity and most of the family members will benefit even if not a scout. Our three daughters were all den sisters, then patrol sisters and even camped, fished, canoed, and more, much like the scouts. When our son earned his Eagle Scout honor, all three of his sisters were there to honor him and roast him like a marshmallow.
This year change is occurring and scouting will be including girls in their program. I am personally all for it as we learn the whole picture. Now the whole family can learn and benefit from scouting. The emergency preparedness skills alone are vitally important. First Aid, Life Saving, Nature, Weather, etc., all are important merit badges, earned towards your advancement ranks.
We are very fortunate that our Iron Range schools have school forest curriculums, but we need to prepare our youth to live and thrive in our world. Recently, when helping at a school forest, a few older elementary students had no idea how to survive a winter storm, or even start a fire in an emergency. That is very scary in our rural communities where we need to be ready to help each other. You may not be able to Google help in an emergency.
An Eagle Scout can be summed up by the twelve points of the scout law. They are: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.
If you add the skills learned in communication, dedication, community service and perseverance needed, you have a very well versed and capable person, employee or even mentor for your youth. A scout learns the value of a person’s word. If you say something “on your honor as a scout,” you know the person will mean it.
John Wayne had an awesome speech on his take on the twelve points of a scout law. You can find it from most scoutmasters or online at blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2015/08/13/john-waynes-take-scout-law/.
In 1984 when I interviewed for my 34 year career as a developmental adaptive physical education specialist, my soon to be boss asked me as much about my Eagle Scout rank as he did about my then uncommon licensure. With my Eagle Scout rank and my licensure I went straight to the final interviews. I have been proud to serve our area schools, employed by the St. Louis County Schools for the past 34 years. I plan to return this fall to continue my dream job semi-retired.
The Eagle Scout rank is a large reason why I make myself available for presentations to community organizations, to discuss important matters like diversity awareness and including all scouts regardless of their ability.
There are many small businesses in Minnesota. There are two family owned and operated resort businesses in northern Minnesota where all of their sons are Eagle Scouts. If you have an Eagle Scout rank on your application you will probably get an interview. An Eagle Scout rank shows you know what it takes to get a job done.
The National Eagle Scout Association produces a magazine titled: The Eagle’s Call. Recently my brothers, nephews and I were pictured at an awards ceremony with the then-president of scouting, Wayne Brock. The photograph shows the celebration of the nine Eagle Scouts in our family.
All nine of our family’s Eagle Scouts are still involved in service to our communities, through our religious affiliations, Special Olympics, Miracle League baseball and more. We are firefighters, teachers, company employees and business owners, all because of our scouting background and the Eagle Scout rank.
Our father did not make it past the Second Class rank as a child. He needed to get a job at age 11 to help support his family. But that is a whole separate discussion. While we were growing up he made sure my brothers and I knew the value of scouting. Our father served as scoutmaster and other leadership roles and our mother held many leadership positions as well.
“Anything worth doing is worth doing right” and “Just do your best” were common statements to advancing scouts.
My journey towards my adult career started long ago when our then scoutmaster, the amazing Roger Braff of Duluth, asked our patrol to take a young man on our five-mile hike.
The young boy had a disability called cerebral palsy, something a teenage boy had not heard of at the time. The details are lost with time but I remember we all did our best.
That young boy walked his five miles hike as far and as best he could. Each person’s finish line is a measure of their effort, a lesson not forgotten. Our patrol learned the value of trying, encouraging and service. We also learned the value of thinking of “person first” and not categorizing someone based on their ability level.
There is the scout slogan: “Do a good turn daily.” Eagle scouts are always working on doing something for someone else every day. Perhaps the hike was one of our best good turns, it sure turned us towards the Eagle Scout rank.
The Eagle Scout rank can help you with your schooling. If you are applying for a scholarship for post-secondary education, an Eagle Scout rank can put you on the top of the pile for consideration. There are scholarships specifically for those with an Eagle Scout rank. That puts you in a very select group when applying.
Plus, all branches of the United States Military will allow an Eagle Scout to enter at a higher rank and a higher pay grade when applying for service to our country.
The Huffington Post has a good article: How Being an Eagle Scout Has Helped Me in Every Stage. It can be found at https:// www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-beingan eagle-scout-has-helped-me-in-every-stage_ us_ 59e43244e4b003f928d5e827.
When a youth earns the Eagle Scout Rank they are asked to take the Eagle Scout Pledge. This is a pledge you take on your honor. It is so important that at Eagle Courts of honor, most troops have all Eagle Scouts in attendance stand and reaffirm their pledge of service and dedication.
An Eagle Scout Pledge
On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty to God. On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty to my country. I reaffirm my allegiance to the three promises of the Scout Oath. I thoughtfully recognize and take upon myself the obligations and responsibilities of the rank of Eagle Scout.
On my Honor, I will do my best to make my training an example, and make my rank and influence strongly count for better scouting and
for better citizenship, in my troop, in my community, and in my contact with other people, regardless of race, color, or creed. To this, I pledge my sacred honor.
The Eagle Pledge is often followed with a strong Eagle Scout Challenge.
Eagle Scout Challenge Author unknown Troop 129 Record
I charge you to enter this Eagle Scout brotherhood holding ever before you, the ideals of honor and service. Though the words you used just now are similar to those by which you joined scouting, today they mean more than they ever could have meant at any time in the past. When you pledged yourself on your sacred honor, using the same words which are found at the end of the Declaration of Independence, you sealed your eternal loyalty to the code of the Eagle Scout. May the oath you have taken remain true in your heart.”
There are some famous Eagle Scouts to consider as well:
• Neil Armstrong, astronaut, first man on
• Willie Banks, Olympic and world record
holding track star
• William Devries, M.D., transplanted first
• Rear Admiral Eugene B. Fluckey, WWII submarine commander, Medal of Honor recipient
• Gerald Ford, U.S. president (first Eagle to
• Robert M. Gates, director of CIA and Secretary of Defense
• Mike Rowe. Star of “Dirty Jobs with Mike
Rowe” on the Discovery Channel
• Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., admiral, Chief of
This is just eight out of an extensive list of those who have served and become famous.
“Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle.” That phrase has been around since Arthur Rose Eldred became the first Eagle Scout at age 16. The important point to add is Arthur was a First Class scout until someone encouraged him to go on. That person happened to be Sir Bayden Powel, the founder of scouting.
Earning his Eagle Rank helped Arthur gain the skill he used to save a person from drowning and received the BSA Honor Medal.
Every Eagle Scout knows the importance of their family and their leaders. In this changing world the belief is we need to return to basic values of family and honor and the knowing the importance of simply doing your best.
To every Eagle Scout out there, congratulations. To every scout who is advancing or close, tie up your boots, put on your backpack and head out to serve others while camping, learning leadership and growing.
Eagle Scout? It is worth the work, the effort and the honor you will earn.
“Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle.”
Patrick Baumann, M.Ed., lives in Virginia, MN. He is an Eagle Scout; Troop 129 scoutmaster, retired; Boundary Waters District commissioner, retired; Boundary Waters District committee member; and Troop 129, Virginia/Britt assistant scoutmaster.