Breakfast Brings Eagle Scouts Together
While the number of Boy Scouts has been dwindling recently amid national controversies and a loss of general interest, local leaders are trying to change that.
One way they are doing that is through gatherings where current Eagle Scouts can reminisce about their experiences and hopefully help spark more interest from the general public.
The Occoneechee Council of the Boy Scouts of America held one such gathering June 30 in Aberdeen. The purpose of the breakfast was to bring multiple generations together to talk about their experiences with the Boy Scouts.
More than 30 people attended, but several hundred Eagle Scouts reside in the county. Several out-of-county Scouts attended, including Justice Paul Newby. This event was just the beginning of what Scout leaders hope to be a continuing program.
“This is the first event we’ve had of this kind in Moore County,” said Doyle Parrish, of the Occoneechee Council and himself an Eagle Scout. “It’s not a fundraiser at all. It’s just to rekindle memories and ignite interest in Scouting.”
Parrish believes that Scouting has fallen out of the “mainstream consciousness” of society. Boy Scouts celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010, but a Gallup poll last year showed there has been a proportional decline in the number of boys joining the Scouts. However, for those who have been a part of Scouting, the breakfast brought back fond memories.
“I only had one badge left, and it was lifesaving,” David McNeill said. “It was the middle of November. The water was cold, but once I earned that, I said ‘I can’t stop now.’”
Seven requirements must be met before attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. Only one of these involves merit badges, while the other six include a service project, recommendations and minimum amounts of time in certain ranks or positions.
“In the summer of 1961, my life really changed,” Johnny Glover said. “My next-door neighbor asked me to go to a Scout meeting. I had just turned 11. I went. I have been Scouting ever since.”
This was the experience of many who attended the breakfast — discovering Scouting at an early age and doing it ever since. The history of the organization was also evident, with at least four generations present. The oldest attendee attained his Eagle ranking before 1940.
For many, this means that Eagle Scouts beget Eagle Scouts, as attendees shared the relationships that the Boy Scouts has helped them create.
“My dad worked seven days a week,” John Akerman said. “The only time I really got to spend quality time with him was when he would escape with us boys to go camping. Back in those days, there were no beepers, pagers or cell phones, so we had him all to ourselves.”
Although Akerman’s dad was never a Scout, many of the men in the room had fathers who were. Doug and Matt McKenzie, father and son, are both Eagle Scouts.
“We’ve been able to form a really good relationship because of scouting,” Matt McKenzie said.
While the Boy Scouts helped build and strengthen relationships, it also helped the boys grow and develop as people.
“After I came back from Philmont, my mother told me something,” Nick Long said. “She told me I had left as a little boy and came back a man.”
Philmont Scout Ranch is the largest of many Scout camps across the country. Moore County has one, Camp Durant, near Carthage. It is at these camps and other Scouting activities that leaders try to instill values and build character in the boys.
“We’re all about adventure and teaching boys to make strong moral and ethical choices during their lifetimes,” Parrish said. “That’s not old-fashioned. It’s just good old common sense.”
An underlying theme of the breakfast was the prestige and togetherness associated with being an Eagle Scout. Newby, who gave the invocation, is still an active Scout leader. He told the group what he tries to instill in the minds of young Boy Scouts.
“I tell them not that I was, but that I am an Eagle Scout,” he said, “and that expectations of them will forever be higher because they are Eagle Scouts.”
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