CHARLESTON, W.Va. — This week the Boy Scouts of America is staging the National Scout Jamboree here in West Virginia. About 25,000 scouts and a total of 40,000 people when you include leaders, staff, and volunteers are on the property at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve for the 10 day event.
I watch those scouts with envy. The facility, built four years ago and improved a lot since that time, is an amazing place. The 11,000 acre site which I visited soon after it opened four years ago is top shelf. Every installation, whether it’s the shooting range, skate park, BMX course, zip lines, and on and on is not just well constructed–it’s the best installation of its kind in America. Designers sought out the top names in all of those activities for consultation as they were designing the individual facilities. The work absolutely holds true to the Scout motto of “Be Prepared.”
I started scouting early in my life. When I was in second grade a man came to speak to our class about joining the Cub Scouts. He spoke of camping, fishing, hiking and all sorts of outdoor activities. They wore awesome uniforms and earning badges and rank all appealed to me at a young age. There was also the pinnacle of all scouting if you worked hard and stuck with it throughout your childhood, the rank of Eagle Scout. One of my few regrets in life was that I didn’t stick it out.
I joined the Cub Scouts and my mother was our Den Leader. Mamma was a school teacher, so she was pretty well skilled at handling a gang of ten rambunctious boys in Den 3 of Pack 185 in Kingsport, Tennessee. She was also skilled at teaching–and was a stalwart for the virtues scouting instills like patriotism, loyalty, resourcefulness, hard work, teamwork, and self responsibility. What my mom couldn’t handle, like many of the outdoors skills, my dad chipped in and picked up her slack. Under their gentle guidance I earned my Bobcat badge, then with even more hard work rose to the rank of Wolf and earned several beads which proudly hung from a special patch on my uniform.
But in the Summer of 1977, I had to give up scouting. A new highway was being built and it was going through the center of our home. We were forced to move and that’s when we made the move to my dad’s homeplace, the farm in Lee County, Virginia. It was a summer of complete upheaval and new beginnings in my life from school to home to general life atmosphere. It wasn’t a negative, I loved the new home, but for whatever reason, I never got back into the local scout troop. We had one and a few guys I knew were members–a couple of them reached the Eagle rank before we graduated high school. But I had fallen behind and had taken up new interests like sports and enjoying time to myself on the family farm. It’s sad I didn’t get back into it and like I said, it’s one of my few regrets in life. It’s one of those, “If I could do things over..” situations.
Fortunately, I had parents who were adamant about those same values taught by the scouts and today I still draw upon those lessons. But putting the title of Eagle Scout on a resume carries a lot of weight. It’s a title and rare distinction which only a few hold and it creates a lifelong bond among those who share it.
Scouting is a commendable activity. It teaches youngsters the value of hard work and self reliance. Scouting teaches you independence and to be dependable. It gives you great self confidence to attack any challenge. You’re taught respect for other people, for your country, and for God. You learn lessons in humility, dignity, and trustworthiness. All of those lessons are taught in a variety of ways–many of the scouting activities have changed over the years as times have change. But still, the lessons and the core values remain the same. Thankfully, the Boy Scouts endure and when you look around our society could use a lot of their lessons today.