By Maria Milligan
Dec 14, 2015

Scout Heroism—Integrity in the Face of Danger

Since its founding over 100 years ago, the Boy Scouts of America has been in the business of saving boys and teaching them to save others. Scouting helps boys develop internal character at the same time it encourages them to focus outside of themselves and serve those around them.

This month’s pillar is Integrity—Be prepared by learning who we are as Scouts and sons of God by keeping ourselves physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight and understanding our true nature as a son of God. When a boy truly understand who he is and works hard to keep himself physically, mentally, and morally prepared, he can face trials, danger, sorrow, and challenges with courage and conviction. In face, it is often in these moments of struggle that we see a boy’s integrity and character shine through in the actions he takes.

Scout is BraveSome of the most extreme tests of Scouts’ character have come when someone’s life is in danger and the Scout is presented with an opportunity to save that life, sometimes at the risk of his own. The BSA has spent decades training young men in first aid and lifesaving techniques so they will know what to do when these circumstances arise and can minimize risk to themselves.

All the first aid training in the world, however, can’t make a boy run toward danger to aid another instead of away from it. Only his own character and integrity can do that. In Michael Malone’s new book, Running Toward Danger, you can read dozens of stories about Scouts finding it in themselves to save others. In this story, a Scout faced obvious danger to save his friend:

Wilson Martin, a 15-year-old Second Class Scout from Brookfield, Missouri, and his friend Harry Scoch, also 15, had been ice skating when they got the idea to explore a nearby, abandoned ice making plant. Entering, they found themselves in a vast and empty room. Seeing a small door on the far side, Scoch ran for it—in the process hitting and breaking a small pipe “and releasing ammonia and ammonia gas [part of the ice making process] that was in storage in the refrigeration system. The liquid ammonia not only sprayed down the boy’s back and legs but he quickly was surrounded by a steam-like cloud of the gas. He fell to the floor with the gas burning his eyes and filling his lungs so that he couldn’t even scream.

Wilson Martin News

Boys’ Life, June 1929 carried Martin’s story

Scout Martin, though he had no preparation in this type of emergency, ran to his friend. Ignoring the danger, he dove into the fog and, blinded, groped around the floor until he found Scoch and dragged him into clear air.

But more danger lay ahead. Besides the damage to his eyes and lungs, Scoch’s clothes were saturated with ammonia and as it evaporated it began to freeze, even as it was burning his flesh. In agony, he tried to tear off his clothes but Martin stopped him. Instead he got his friend to his feet and half-carried him to a nearby house. There, while the home owner called for a doctor, Martin helped his friend out of his clothes. The ammonia fumes were so great that they had to abandon and seal the room they were in. Meanwhile, Martin had to physically restrain the suffering boy from rubbing his burning eyes, which saved his eyesight. Scoch was severely burned and spent several weeks in the hospital; but he lived. Martin was honored for his resourcefulness and cool head in a situation for which even Scouting had not prepared him.

Wilson knew who he was as a Scout, and knew he needed to save his friend. He had kept himself physically strong enough to pull his friend out of danger. He was mentally awake enough to think clearly and act in his friend’s best interest, even when it was difficult. He was morally straight enough to save his friend when it would have been easier to run. Though he wasn’t trained to deal with chemical inhalation and burns, Wilson used his other training and the strength of his own personal character to tackle the problem and do his best.

How have you seen integrity in action from your Scouts?

Maria Milligan


Author: Maria Milligan | Grant Writer, Utah National Parks Council, BSA.

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