Scouting Tributes

What does Scouting mean to you? Do you have a story? Did someone impress you, move you to become a leader, change your life? Read some of these tributes, and then send me your story.

Table of Contents

Truman Volunteer

He made me proud to be Black, a Scout, and a veteran all at the same time. I observed him as he carefully held the arms of the wheelchair, assisting the fragile old woman from her seat and into a waiting automobile. She must have offered him a tip for his kindness, as he closed the door of the car.

"I'm sorry. They won't let us accept anything for our work. Besides," I overheard him state as he sat down in the chair and turned it toward the ramp, "I'm a Boy Scout and I couldn't take it if I could. Thank you, though. Have a good day!"

*That's* what got my attention at first.

I followed the young man, now in the company of a chunky white kid with reddish-brown hair. He too, was seated in the wheelchair that once sat another visitor to the Harry Truman Veterans Administration Hospital in Columbia, Missouri. The two boys are part of Truman Volunteers, donating their time during the summer months to escort the once able-bodied of veterans of our wars and military service and their spouses. They take vets in, out and around the regional medical facility, in part due to the fact that the original handicapped entrance was torn up as part of a multi-million dollar upgrade to the aged old military hospital.

The two boys were racing, trying to be the first one back to where the "rest stop was". I slowed them down by asking where was the personnel office located. The black kid did a "wheelie" with his chair, lifting it slightly as he performed what for me would be a dangerous manuever.

"Where are you a Scout at?", I asked. I then added "I volunteered at a hospital once....didn't last too long, though."

"In town", the Scout responded, and then gave me directions to the personnel office.

"Hey Kenny", I replied, reading the nameplate below the VA nameplate on his maroon smock. "How did you hear about this work?"

At first, Kenny was surprised that I knew his name, but after touching his nametag briefly, he then replied "My dad told me about it. I love it!". He then got out of his wheelchair, parked it alongside several others, and then added, "Lots of guys have jobs that pay. I have a job that gives me smiles...and it's fun, too!"

As if someone turned on the "too much fun" alarm, a matronly older woman came barrelling around the corner from the wheelchair area, almost yelling "Okay boys, we hired you to work, not sit and play! Third floor center!"

I watched as the two stopped playing and as if they were being given a top secret assignment, they adjusted themselves and guided a wheelchair apiece up the hallway toward the elevators. The matronly woman told me again where the Personnel office was and I was on my way in that direction.

Hoping to see Kenny or his friend after I completed my business -- looking for a possible new job -- I returned to the information booth in the lobby. It was empty and the lights were off. I returned to the rental car, checked my watch and started to drive back out and up the hill to join my wife at the University hospital where she has applied for jobs at.

Out my rearview mirror, though, I looked at the empty "waiting area" at the top of the ramp where I saw Kenny and his workmate at a couple of hours ago. For a slight momment, I knew what William Boyce felt when he couldn't find his Unknown Scout in England.

When so many people are crying that we've losing our youth to the streets. When so many people are saying that we still have racial problems. When so many people are complaining about the effectiveness and costs of our medical care.

I think that President Truman, Bill Boyce, and Baden-Powell are all raising glasses of wine to those two boys...and others...whom are taking a summer to be of service to others. That's what being a citizen is all about. What equality is all about.

That's what Scouting, in a large part, is about.


-- Thanks to (MAJ) Mike L. Walton (Settummanque, the blackeagle)

Thank You, Mr. Scoutmaster

As a boy I joined the Boy Scouts, and thanks to the adults, my parents included, who took time to lead our troop, we learned our lessons well, and had fun at the same time. During that time I earned the rank of Eagle Scout, and became a leader in the troop. Several years later I was drafted into the Army. The training I received there was rugged, but I was prepared for it, because I was a Boy Scout. When I was sent to Viet Nam, the conditions there were primitive, as well as dangerous, but I was prepared, because I was a Boy Scout. I returned home from Viet Nam and started my family. I knew how to help with many things at home, and had many good examples of how to be a good parent, because I was a Boy Scout. When My community started a volunteer fire department, I joined and quickly became a leader, learning new skills and sharing old skills with others. I was prepared to do this because I was a Boy Scout. Recently I came upon an automobile accident with a young man trapped inside unable to breathe. I was able to save his life because I was a Boy Scout. Every day I thank God for sending the Scout leaders who taught me the skills of Scouting and of life, and how to learn and to share my skills with others. Today a touch of silver streaks my hair, and my joints complain when I strain. I don't know just what tomorrow will bring, but I know I'll be prepared to meet it and succeed, because I am a Boy Scout.

-- Thanks to Jim Hubbard

The Spirit of Christmas

Eighty-one years ago today Europe was being convulsed by a terrible war with shocking casualties on both sides. By Christmas Eve in 1915 both sides had become well practiced in trench warfare. In many ways it was a grim time and for many it seemed that hope was lost.

Yet on that night, a young German soldier somewhere along the line in France sang out the words of a Christmas carol in his native tongue. Others joined in and the canons and guns fell silent as all strained to hear in a brief respite from the war. In answer an English soldier from Kent and his comrades sang God Rest You Merry Gentlemen. The Germans began singing Stilla Nacht (Silent Night) and the lads from Kent joined in singing in English.

As the carols continued to fill the night in two tongues, another young German soldier advanced unarmed across no-mans land with a flag of truce. And one by one the men on both sides advanced unarmed into no-mans land where they traded cigarettes, chocolates, and stories. Some played soccer under the light of star shells and others brought musical instruments to share in song.

In that brief night the frozen fields of France were warmed by the songs of peace and hope. The First World War continued on for three more years, and though not repeated again, this night was well remembered by all.

Some would later describe it as miraculous that there was such a spontaneous laying down of arms among the soldiers. Others saw it as evidence that even in the worst of times, we could still find a way to be able to live in peace.

In my own religion's celebration of Christmas it is customary to exchange happy greetings and the glad tidings of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Men. And as I consider the meaning of these tidings, it seems to me that it is also a time to remember that another soldier whose fame was from an earlier time was also hopeful that we might find a way to have peace on earth and to have goodwill among all. Baden-Powell with death approaching left a series of four letters to be opened after his passing. In his letter addressed to brother Scouters and Guiders when the world was again convulsed in a World War, he described the aim of the movement he had started:

"Its aim is to produce healthy, happy, helpful citizens, of both sexes, to eradicate the prevailing narrow self-interest, personal, political, sectarian and national, and to substitute for it a broader spirit of self-sacrifice and service in the cause of humanity; and thus to develop mutual goodwill and co-operation not only within our own country but abroad, between all countries.

"Experience shows that this consummation is no idle or fantastic dream, but is a practicable possibility -- if we work for it; and it means, when attained, peace, prosperity and happiness for all. . . ."

And so I would ask all of you to take inspiration from the Christmas Eve experience in 1915 and BP's dying words to recognize that among us all there is hope for peace and goodwill among all made more real by the love we share for Scouting and Guiding around the globe.

Perhaps the greatest gifts exchanged during the year are the ones each of you give to the young people you serve daily and weekly in Scout or Guide meetings and activities. My thanks to all of you who have shared around this virtual campfire over the last year and for all the wonderful things you have done to deliver the promise of Scouting to young people. Peace be with you all and may you enjoy a wonderful new year full of challenge and joy.

Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman

Some Stories about Wearing the Uniform

Story #1:
We were searching for a youth hostel in Lyon, France. We were dressed in class A uniforms. We were confused and must have looked it.

A woman approached us and said her son was a Scout and asked if we needed help. I told her the address we were looking for. She tried explaining it to me, but the directions were complicated.

She finally smiled and said "Follow me". She literally took me by the hand, and rode with us on the subway, transferred once to another train, and put us on the correct bus, telling the bus driver where we were to get off, and drawing me a walking map of how to get to the hostel from the bus stop.

She really went out of her way to help us. We all thanked her as she disappeared into a crowd. I call her the "Unknown Mom" who helped a Scoutmaster and his Scouts (lost in a "mental fog") find their way. Without the uniforms, she probably would have never approached us.

Story #2:
While on a two week trip in Mexico, we were riding on a train when a large group of Mexican Scouts boarded. They were in full uniform, we were not in uniform at the time. They brushed past us.

We were saving our uniform for the jet ride home (We'd already worn them a few days earlier). We went into the next car and put on our Scout shirts. One Mexican Scout saw us and soon we had 40 Mexican Scouts swarming all around us wanting to trade patches and talk with us. Instant friends within seconds.

Story #3:
We were attending a Bruce Springstein concert "Born in the USA", in a park in Paris, France. We were in full class A uniforms hoping Bruce might spot us in the crowd (we were only 30' from right center stage) and also because we were born in the USA and wanted everyone to know it. Some chemically altered concert attendee decided it would be cute to rip the American flag off the shirt of one of our Scouts. When he realized he was surrounded by American Scouts and Scouters, he sheepishly grinned, apologized, and quietly retreated into the crowd.

Story #4:
In Rome, Italy we had stopped one evening for pizza on our way to the Trevi fountain. I thought it would be fun to see the Trevi Fountain lit up at night (we had seen it in daylight the previous day). We were in class A uniforms. This was just days after an American TWA jetliner had been hijacked from the airport in Athens, Greece in 1985. Fringe groups were coming out of the woodwork with anti-American demonstrations.

As we ate our pizza some American college students saw our Scout shirts and came over to converse with us. We talked of the recent crisis and about some anti-American sentiment that was surfacing. The students said they were leaving Rome after dinner because they were afraid. I asked them why. They said one of the reasons was the anti-American rally taking place that night at the plaza surrounding Trevi Fountain. My Scouts turned and looked at me questioningly. I decided it would be a better idea to skip Trevi Fountain that night and stay at the hotel writing post cards and watching American re-runs on TV (dubbed in Italian).

Wearing the uniform overseas can be a positive or negative experience, depending on the circumstances. I have always had overwhelmingly positive experiences, with just a few potentially bad ones.

We always wear class A's on airline flights.

-- Thanks to Cliff Golden, Scoutmaster Troop 33; DeKalb, Illinois

What My Scoutmasters Mean to Me

By J. Corpening, ASM Troop 226

This speech was given at the District Banquet, February 16, 1996, Boy Scouts of America, Coastal District, Cape Fear Council

As I worked on my remarks for this program, I reflected on my life -- and on the people and things that have played a significant role in my life. Certainly my family--my parents, my brother and sister, my wife, and my children, have exerted considerable influence over me, although my wife is beginning to question how much influence she has in the face of 6 boy scout weekends in a row. My church and my profession have significantly affected my life.

Two other individuals have affected my life in ways beyond their wildest imagination. Charlie Rigsbee from Durham and Deane Taylor from Winston Salem, my Scoutmasters. I had not consciously thought about them in several years, until Jim Taylor stood up to introduce himself at the Scoutmasters fundamentals course in December, and said "I'm Jim Taylor, and my life is Scouting". The life of these two men was Scouting, and Jim immediately reminded me of Deane. These two men led me, inspired me, prodded me, kicked me, along the trail to Eagle and adulthood. Charlie Rigsbee led me to believe that at 13, I could hike 50 miles in 5 days between Christmas and New Years. He was so convincing that I did it, one of only 17 to complete the hike out of a group of almost 130. In other words, he convinced me that I could do anything I set my mind to, a valuable lesson in life.

Deane Taylor added the finishing touches, guiding me through Star, Life and Eagle, encouraging me and others in our troop to work at our summer camp, Raven Knob; encouraging me to be active in the OA, eventually urging me to run for chapter and lodge office in Wahissa Lodge. I will never forget the pride in his smile and in his voice, as I came out of the woods following an appearance as Meteu in an ordeal ceremony, after I had put my heart and soul into that appearance as I knew he expected me to do. Another adult leader turned to Deane and said: Who is that young man? Deane replied, that's one of my boys. His boys gave their best -- another valuable lesson in life.

So, to a large extent, it is because of Charlie and Deane that I stand before you tonight, an Eagle scout, an elected official of this district; and as one of you, an Assistant Scoutmaster. So I would like to dedicate my remarks tonight to Charlie and Deane, and through them bring you words of thanks, encouragement and challenge.

In order to make my point tonight, I need to share a little more with you about the impact of Scouting on my life, sort of a personal testimony about Scouting.

I fought, and my Scoutmasters with me, many of the same fights you face in keeping boys involved in Scouting: Sports, gasoline, and perfume. Sports takes perhaps the greatest toll, because it attracts our youngest Scouts, when everyone can still play, before teams have cuts, when they are able to play basketball, football, soccer, baseball, swim team and others.

Sports and Scouting had profound influences on me, and my Scoutmasters encouraged both. Sports have always been and continue to be important to me. While in high school, I lettered in 3 sports my junior and senior year. I had the good fortune to start on a basketball team my senior year which reached the state quarterfinals in division 4a. I continued to play basketball competitively until knee surgery about 6 years ago.

I learned a great deal about myself and other people from competition and being on a team. I learned that perceived physical and emotional liimits could be exceeded, that a team, working as a team, can accomplish what individuals cannot (does that sound familiar?), And I learned something about what Ken Hayes, my basketball coach, called intestinal fortitude, or guts. I learned how to stand tall in victory and defeat, to lose without crying and win without crowing. I learned that good sportsmanship is the number one rule of any game. These too, are valuable lessons.

My Scoutmaster at the time, Deane Taylor, encouraged my involvement in sports. He came to some of my games, cheered me on. He encouraged me to come to meetings, even though I was 16, then 17. He made me feel needed. He understood I was tired, and the conflicts I faced. But he understood the importance of a well rounded young man. And he understood the importance of Scouting, and he understood the aims of Scouting: To build character, to foster citizenship, to develop fitness. Developing fitness can be done through organized sports! Deane Taylor made my basketball team an extension of his work with me, a part of the process, a piece of the puzzle to fulfill the aims and promise of Scouting instead of a competitor.

And now, at 41, as I reflect back on the lessons and memories of my life, all the wonderful experiences, lessons and memories as an athlete pale in comparison to the life lessons learned in Scouting. Scouting, more than any other activity or organization, helped mold me into what I am today, and continues to affect me each day of my life, many times in ways I never expected. Some of the early lessons learned as a Boy Scout are rules to live by, an oath or promise, a law, a motto, a slogan. Words of high calling: On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty.......

Each day since learning those rules I have had a chance to apply them in my decision making. Sometimes I have done better than others but the fact remains that these simple rules of living help each of us be a better person and citizen.

But the impact of Scouting on my life was greater than this. I learned many technical skills that I use today -- knot tying, first aid, camping, cooking, map and compass, swimming, lifesaving, canoeing, sailing, and many others. Each time I use my boat I call on knot tying and map and compass skills. I have used first aid many times, at home, on my boat, even at work, when a lawyer had a heart attack in my courtroom I was the only person in the building trained in first aid. Beginning with second class and continuing through my service as aquatics director at Scout camp, I had to learn how to react in an emergency, how to stay calm, and finally, how to be able to at least give someone a chance to live. And that night, following that lawyers death, I suddenly realized that I was prepared, that I had done my best, I had done my duty. The CPR worked, the lawyer had been alive when I handed him over to the paramedics. He had a chance because I was a Scout.

In Scouting I had my first exposure to public speaking, learned what it means to be a citizen, a good citizen, and learned to be a leader. I learned the easy lesson that leadership is an honor and a privilege. I learned the more difficult lessons that leadership bears responsibility and hardship. As a Scout, I was given guidance in responsible decision making, something that is missing from so much of our society today.

Two honors I received in scouting are still the most important honors or achievements in my life. In june, 1971 I received my Eagle Scout award. I have included that award on every job application, college application, resume, and biographical summary I have ever prepared, including my appication to Governor Martin in 1991, asking that I be appointed to the district court bench. I have included it becuase it is the most important achievement of my lifetime. I have included it because employers, and admissions officers, and others know that there is something special about an Eagle Scout. They know that he is a leader, an achiever, and they know someting about the rules he lives by. They know what all Eagles learn, that becoming an Eagle Scout carries with it a resonsibility to be a leader, to set an example, and to use your talents to be of service to Scouting and your community.

Service is the foundation of the other honor in Scouting that is so important to me, the Order of the Arrow. Service to others, cheerful service, is the responsibility the honor carries, a responsibility that does not end at age 18. My experiences as a member of the dance and ceremony teams, with all of the majesty and splendor of those evenings are etched in my memory forever. But the lessons of serving my fellow man, cheerfully, are burned in my very soul.

It is significant to me that I stand before you tonight wearing the same uniform as you, with my Assistant Scoutmaster's patch on my sleeve. I am one of you. And I am one of you and have met a substantial measure of success in my life because of two men, my Scoutmasters. I believe that there is a hidden promise in Scouting, that goes beyond anything in the boy Scout handbook. The hidden promise, and hence my words of encouragement and challenge, is that each boy has the opportunity to experience and learn what I have experienced and learned, and that as an adult, can recognize the importance of those experiences and lessons, as I have, and decide, as I have, to be a Scoutmaster, to pass the torch to another generation of boys, the Scoutmasters of tomorrow.

The words of Ben Love in the foreward to the Scoutmasters Handbook come close to being perfect. He wrote: "in the years ahead, there's no telling how many men will look back on their happy, productive days as Boy Scouts and recall their Scoutmaster with a large measure of warmth and gratitude. This will be your ultimate reward in Scouting." If I can change his words just a little: there's no telling how many men will look back on their happy productive days as Boy Scouts and recall their Scoutmaster with a large measure of warmth and gratitude, and decide to be a Scoutmaster. This will be your ultimate reward in Scouting. There can be no greater contribution any of us can make in our lives than to make the kind of difference in the life of our boys that Charlie Rigsbee and Deane Taylor made in my life.

That is my challenge to you tonight. I offer my experiences as a Scout as encouragement to you that your efforts are worthwhile. I offer my heartfelt thanks to you for what you are doing as Scoutmasters (and as understanding spouses and family members of Scoutmasters). And I offer my thanks, to Charlie Rigsbee and Deane Taylor. I am finally doing what they trained me to do. I hope they are proud.

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