By Ken Krogue
May 17, 2013

Eagle Scouts and The Scout Oath Still Mean Something

The year was 1982.

Eagle-Scout-MedalI was in my junior year in high school and applying for scholarships and appointments to the Air Force and the United States Naval Academy. I was amazed that both Academies asked if I was an Eagle Scout. The profiles both showed an inordinate amount of Eagle Scouts in their alumni compared to the normal population. I decided to fly out and spend a week during the summer at the Naval Academy and see if I could handle it. It was brought up several times while I was there.

Being an Eagle Scout obviously meant something.

I decided to go the Naval Academy the following year. My appointment was from Orrin Hatch. They cut my hair. I had to memorize my chain of command all the way up to Ronald Reagan. I had to memorize the officers of the watch and the menu of the day… every day. We had to know two front-page articles and a sports article every day before breakfast or we got demerits… every demerit was at least an hour of marching at the worst possible time of the day.

We were there the year BYU won the national championship and I also memorized the articles about the Superbowl of the Washington Redskins. It was hard… very hard. I marched a lot.

I remember being at parade rest on the parade grounds with my left hand in the small of my back, my bayonet forward, and sweat rolling down the middle of my back causing an itch that couldn’t be scratched… not then at least. It was 98 degrees, and about that same level of humidity. I had never seen heat like that in the mountain west. But it was ok, I had done hard things growing up as a Boy Scout. I was only 17. I hoped I could get through.

I noticed the plebe in front of me starting to sway. We had been warned of the symptoms. He had locked his knees. He was going to fall… backwards this time. My choice was obvious even though I knew the consequences. I moved my bayonet from out of the middle of his back, threw my piece to the ground, moved out of rank and tried to leap forward to catch him. All I did was slow his fall, but I stopped his head from hitting the ground with full impact.

They came and got him.

And I got in trouble, again, for moving in the ranks. I couldn’t understand why.

Many years later I realized it was a time-proven model to grow men out of boys and put them in charge of leading the greatest military in the world. Flying those 30 million dollar jets was no small thing. The whole game was about how we react and lead in a no-win situation. If I moved I was in trouble. If I didn’t help my comrade I was in trouble. Which trouble was worse?

I had to decide… and quickly.

It was about leadership. It was about service. It was about being trustworthy in any situation.

Once again, I was marching. But that time it was worth it.

HerndonAt the end of Plebe Year we climbed the greased Herndon Monument to take the Plebe cap off and to put the officer-style cap on top so we could end the most difficult summer of our lives. I was one of the guys holding up that last row or two of Plebes as one of our tallest class members reached to his very limit and exchanged the two hats. You can’t even see my face in the pictures, just my grease-smeared back.

We had taken off our t-shirts to wipe away the grease so we could just hold on to that granite pillar. Many had fallen to the ground in the early stages when the grease was still very thick. But we did the very hard thing and ended that summer of hell. It was amazing though, as hard as it was, you couldn’t pull us away. One of those love/hate situations you will never forget.

And I watched our First Class men and women throw their caps in the air as they graduated.

That day they took an oath. The United States Uniformed Services Oath of Office.

To lay their lives on the line, if necessary. To uphold our constitution and to protect our freedom:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Not a just recommendation or a guideline…

An oath.

As I sat in that audience watching, I was struck with the impact of them taking that oath. I deeply wanted to. I never got to.

Many was the time my mind reviewed the only oath I had ever taken up to that time in my life… when I was a Boy Scout.

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.

I think I have rehearsed the words of that oath well over a thousand times…

It means something.

I mean it when I say it.

I feel it when I hear it.

In my heart…

For some reason when I repeat it I always get stuck on the line that says “and to obey the Scout Law.” But I can never forget those twelve simple words that make up the Scout Law:

•           Trustworthy
•           Loyal
•           Helpful
•           Friendly
•           Courteous
•           Kind
•           Obedient
•           Cheerful
•           Thrifty
•           Brave
•           Clean
•           Reverent

I’ve said them so many times I can’t seem to forget them.

Do they still mean something?


To me they do.

Ken Krogue HeadshotAuthor: Ken Krogue
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15 thoughts on “Eagle Scouts and The Scout Oath Still Mean Something

    1. AvatarGary Vaughan

      I think the 12 points of the Scout Law already clearly represent “tolerance” –much that is required to emulate it.

  1. AvatarJeannie Beckers

    Did you know that four of the Cabinet Members President Elect Donald J. Trump
    have asked to be confirmed are/were Eagle Scouts. Each stating one of the proudest
    moments of their lives.

  2. AvatarRobert W. Johnson

    Thanks for your very thoughtful article, it brought back enjoyable and pleasant memories.

    Robert W. Johnson, Ph.D., Eagle Scout 1944, Troup 97, Jacksonville, Fl.

  3. AvatarSuzanne Vitale

    Thanks for your article. My son became an Eagle Scout in January, and we will have his court of honor April 30.

  4. Avataroliverthegreatblog

    I suppose it’s valuable that we have people capable of blindly following some oath even though we know those people are not really capable of living up to it and for sure their leaders do not.

    It’s a dirty job but someone has to be manipulated to advance certain goals.

    1. AvatarRichard C

      As a veteran of the Vietnam war, I object your charactization of the military doing a ‘dirty job’.

      What our military of all branches and job titles are ‘protecting and defending’ the USA, and it’s constitution which guarantees YOU and every US citizens the freedoms and privileges in which we live. Yes, there’s politics, special interests and many reasons why veterans can be looked upon as being puppets to another end. BUT, when anyone joins the military they pledge to protect and defend the constitution of our country

      You want to talk about a dirty job, think about veterans like me who served their country, bleed for their country and 58,000 gave their lives for these ideals. AND, what did we, the Vietnam Veterans get for this service? We were spat on, it happened to me, we were called baby killers and to this day over 40 years later, NOBODY has ever, ever given any reason why we fought in Vietnam.

      So, it’s a dirty job someone has to do. Other than being opinionated, what have YOU done to serve your country??

  5. AvatarRichard C

    Ken: When I read this article, my heart and feelings poured out. From your article, you are saying, but not directly you never made it to admission the Naval Academy, is this correct?? If so, heart breaks for you. What you HAVE accomplished as a Boy Scout is monumental if and of it’s own right. How many young boys/men attain the rank of Eagle Scout? That alone is a rare and almost sacred accomplishment by young boys who are going through the tumultriest years of adolescence and young adulthood. The scouting program offers boys a way of learning, earning and experiencing things they never would have experienced if they weren’t a part of scouting. My congratulations and heart felt ‘job well done’ to you.

    I am the PROUD father of 3 Eagle Scout sons. I am also a 28 year adult leader in the scouting program. I’ve held about every adult leadership position there is, topped by Scoutmaster. Trips to Philmont, Northern Tier, Sea Base and hundreds if not thousands of camping outings in every type of weather imaginable (we once camped out in tents in -17 Deg. F temperatures). How many of scouts, or for that matter, anyone has done this? Is this one outing a tale all of what scouting does? Absolutely not! BUT, the scouting experience is so compelling, needed and rewarding to the scouts, that I find it hard to find the adjectives to show case it’s impact on young lives. I tip my hat to you, I congratulate you, I pat you on the back and say: Be proud, be grateful to the adults who guided you to the destination of EAGLE SCOUT.
    ALWAYS guide everything you do in life by the principles and ideals in the scout oath and law. You’ll never go wrong living these principles in your life.

  6. Avatarjeff harris

    I still have my coin with the oath on it, I’ll be 60 next week, and yes I am a eagle scout and try every day to live up to it.


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