I quickly joined Troop 28, not exactly sure where I would get the money for a uniform, a handbook, or a mess kit. I knew it couldn’t come from my father, Guiseppi. A hardworking Italian immigrant, he had eight children to feed, but he didn’t have two nickels to rub together.
Miraculously, a uniform and a handbook and a mess kit all appeared. Although no one ever explained, I suspect that old Milton Harrel, the godfather of Scouting in our little town, had something to do with it. And so began my grand adventure in Scouting.
The real magic, however, happened when our Scoutmaster, Roy Pederson, approached my dad one day. He asked Dad to drive our troop’s equipment up to summer camp in his 1949 Studebaker truck—one of the few real trucks in town. Dad said yes and got his first taste of old-fashioned, honest-to-God, American volunteerism.
On that trip to camp, my dad was transformed before my eyes, although I didn’t really recognize it
at the time. He connected with what was going on around him, he saw the magic, he drank the bug juice. And he truly learned what it means to be a citizen of this great nation.
That fall, Dad was asked to become a member of the troop committee and, voilà, a volunteer was born. He still couldn’t rub two nickels together, but he was now a Scout leader, and he was bound and determined to be a good one. Dad’s involvement in Scouting changed his life forever. Before long, he was a member of the local men’s club, Troop 28’s sponsor, and a real participating citizen of our little town.
Fast forward to the night in 1963 when he and my mom pinned an Eagle Scout badge on my uniform. I saw a sense of pride and accomplishment in their eyes that can only be described as the fulfillment of the American dream—through the eyes of an immigrant.
When I left for college in 1965—the first of Dad’s children to do so—he reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled $20 bill. It was more than he could afford, but he gave it to me along with a kiss, a huge bear hug, and a simple admonition: “Remember, son, you are an Eagle Scout.”
I’ve always remembered I’m an Eagle Scout, and I’ve always remembered the people who helped me become one. People like Roy Pederson, who led our Scout troop week in and week out. People like Milton Harrel, who provided the resources to make the program possible. And people like my dad, who simply said yes.
Fifty years on, my dad’s story may seem like ancient history, but it’s not. Somewhere today, a mother will catch the magic of Scouting. Somewhere tomorrow, a father will drink the bug juice. And sometime in the future, our great nation will be a different, better place because of their involvement.
I can’t think of a time when the principles Scouting teaches have been needed more. Principles like Duty to God, service to others, patriotism, honor, respect, and kindness are sorely lacking in our world today. Scouting is one of the few places left where sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, grandparents and mentors can come together to learn those principles and live those values.