A group of youth, a Cub Scout, four Boy Scouts and a couple of Ventures were sitting around an artificial campfire like this one. That’s when we cut into story time.
One Scout was explaining how he had accidently dropped his leader’s lit flashlight into a pit latrine. He had his leader come and look, to which he said it was a lost cause. Not to this Scout. He bent a hanger and retrieved the thing. Then he presented it to the Scout next to him who was totally grossed out. The flashlight appeared several more times during the campfire, which lightened the mood, but overall this was a pretty serious campfire.
Next up was Alex Call, the 2015 National Order of the Arrow Lodge Chief. He explained how after earning his Eagle at 14 he wondered is Scouting had more to offer. He got involved in the Order of the Arrow, which is an important program for older youth. A few years back his family and friends goaded him into running for office in the Karankawa Lodge of the South Texas Council in Corpus Christi, Texas. During this service he earned his Vigil Honor membership and won election as section chief. He explained how he presided over two of the biggest OA events ever: The Centennial Celebration Tour and the Centennial National OA Conference. This was especially remarkable if you look back at the crossroads he faced after he finished his Eagle. He showed us these highlights from the conference:
As Alex stepped back from center stage, three young women joined the group: one a Law Enforcement Explorer, one a Learning for Life participant and one a Sea Scout. They were welcomed around the campfire.
Then Matt Moniz came forward. He explained that the Climbing Merit Badge was his favorite. Long before getting his Eagle, at age 12, Matt and his dad, Mike, took just six weeks and a day to climb to the highest point in every U.S. state. That’s 50 summits—from Alaska’s 20,322-foot Denali to Florida’s 345-foot Britton Hill—in just 43 days. That effort broke the previous record by more than two days.
Matt shared what he learned in Scouting in an interview: Scouting magazine:
One of the most important lessons I learned in Scouts is leadership. Unlike a sports team, kids in Scouts come in all shapes, ages and sizes, and all with different talents, so you learn to work with lots of different personalities, a bit more like real life.
Some people have asked why with all the outdoor adventures I go on would I need Scouts. I tell them that when I’m out on an a big expedition I really don’t get to lead or make my own plans and decisions. People cook for you, guides point the way, summit plans are made. In Scouts, I don’t have my partners and guides to rely on to make the dinner or choose routes, evaluate the weather, etc. But in Scouts I’ve learned how to be self-sufficient.
But earlier this year, as an Eagle Scout and with four more years of climbing experience, he was ready to conquer the big one, Mount Everest, elevation 29,029 feet. Unfortunately this 17-year-old Eagle Scout was at a Mount Everest base camp when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, causing an avalanche on the world’s tallest mountain that killed at least 18.
Matt and his dad, Mike, were luckily safe. Mike told Scouting Newsroom that his son “was able to take shelter behind a large boulder and was shielded from the powder blast.” Of the experience Matt said: “We are definitely pretty rattled, but after we got out of the slide, all the base camp kind of came together and started looking for people who were injured. He said that all of his Scout training just kicked in and he had to help somehow.
“We really got together as a base camp and looked for a lot of people and saved a lot of lives.” In fact, he asked a Doctor at base camp what he could do. The Doctor asked him to help take the injured to a lower camp for helicopter rescue. On his third transport, there was an aftershock which sent another avalanche cascading their direction. When others began to run, he called them back and they arched their backs over the victim to protect him. All ended up fine, but could have just as easily been buried in the snow.
About then in his story the Chief Scout Executive, Wayne Brock, joined the group to talk about his 5 years in that position. He also explained that he was an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow. Then he paused asked Matt to come forward and called his parents and local Scout executive forward too. Together they awarded him the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms
According to the BSA this badge “may be awarded in exceptional cases to a youth member or adult leader who has demonstrated unusual heroism and extraordinary skill or resourcefulness in saving or attempting to save life at extreme risk to self.” Less than 300 Scouts and Scouters have received the award since its inception since 1938.
The Chief and the Scouts cleared the stage, but one girl and one boy crossed the stage, leaving a watermelon and two six-packs of coke behind. Then the new chief entered the stage to music, flashing lights, a party ball and a mirrored coat.
He looked bewildered, but felt he had to make a grand entrance to beat the last two chiefs on their introduction. He slipped off his fancy coat to reveal a field uniform (that’s two more uniforms at this conference than I have ever seen at one of these meetings). He talked about going forward, but what stood out was the watermelon and two six-packs of coke story.
Earlier this year he flew to Philmont to assess the scene where a flash flood had taken the life of a Scout. The fourteen foot wall of water devastated Ponil camp. As he was returning they came across Philmont staff, who on their day off had walked all day to take a watermelon and two six packs of coke to the staff at Ponil. The Chief then reminded us, that that’s what BSA is about.
Then he lit a candle, explaining it was the spirit of Scouting. From his a second was lit. From those there were four, then eight and sixteen. A few minutes later nearly a thousand candles flickered in the light. Together we sang:
Softly falls the light of day,
While our campfire fades away.
Silently each scout should ask:
“Have I done my daily task?
Have I kept my honor bright?
Can I guiltless sleep tonight?
Have I done and have I dared
In everything to be prepared.?”
I certainly felt that Scouting Spirit tonight!
Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA.