Eagles soar in family groups

Posted Monday, Aug. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Alumni of the Boy Scouts of America 181 NASA astronauts were involved in the Boy Scouts (57.4 percent of astronauts); 39 are Eagle Scouts. 36.4 percent of the United States Military Academy (West Point) cadets were Boy Scouts, with 16.3 percent Eagle Scouts. 22.5 percent of United States Air Force Academy cadets were Boy Scouts, with 11.9 percent Eagle Scouts. 25 percent of United States Naval Academy (Annapolis) midshipmen were involved in Scouting as youth, with 11 percent Eagle Scouts. 189 members of the 113th Congress participated in Scouting as a youth and/or adult leader, and 27 are Eagle Scouts. 18 current U.S. governors participated in Scouting as a youth and/or adult volunteer. Four are Eagle Scouts. Source: Boy Scouts of America website: www.scouting.org

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Boy Scout Easton Trimble is determined to attain the youth organization’s most vaunted status of Eagle Scout, learning those leadership and life skills he believes will better suit him for college, for career – and survival.

“If I got in a car crash and I was stranded, I would basically know how to get help or survive on my own, and know things to do and what not to do, what to eat and what not to eat,” said the 15-year-old Scout, who is heading into his sophomore year at Mansfield High School. “I would know more about the wilderness than someone who hasn’t been a Boy Scout.”

It’s what he wants, but he’s also hearing the calls from a family tree already teeming with eagles. His older brothers, Wesley and Cameron, have earned the title, as has their grandfather. (Dad got close, topping out as a Life Scout, just a notch below Eagle.) The three Eagle Scouts want a fourth.

“It’s just been in my family,” said Wesley, who is nudging Easton toward the Eagle program and its many demands. “A couple of times, I’ve said to him, ‘Yeah, sometimes it sucks. But if you do it, it’s way worth it in the end.’”

Eagle Scouts are relatively uncommon – historically, about 2 percent of Boy Scouts attain this highest honor, which must occur before their 18th birthday. But for two siblings, let alone three, to become Eagle Scouts is very rare, adult scout leaders said.

The Boy Scouts of America doesn’t track the numbers of sibling Eagle Scouts. A contributor to Yahoo! Answers calculated the “pure probability” of three sibling Boy Scouts becoming Eagle Scouts at 1 in 125,000. But he questioned his own result on several points, including what he said are the much greater odds that a family with one Eagle Scout will gain Eagles, simply from influence.

That influence pulls vertically as well, from grandfather to father to son, noted Ivy Brush, Scoutmaster of Troop 1993, the largest of Mansfield’s four Boy Scout troops.

“It’s almost like it’s expected,” said Brush, who oversees the 65 boys and 50 adult leaders in his troop. “You might have a brother who’s disinterested, and that’s the way it goes. But I can tell you this, when the older boys stay in and get Eagle, the younger ones tend to stay in. They don’t want their brothers one-upping them.”

The Boy Scouts organization, which now has 2.7 million Scouts and 1 million adult members across the country, was founded in 1911, and the Eagle project graduated its first 23 Eagles the next year.

Last year the program produced nearly 58,000 Eagle Scouts, the most ever, adding to the 2 million other scouts who earned their "wings" in the group’s first century.

It’s an old honor with great contemporary, practical value – to public and private employers, including the military, where Eagle Scouts are singled out for positions with more responsibility and pay.

“That’s because (employers) realize they’ve already been taught how to lead and how to survive from the skills that they have learned,” said Mike Wagoner, advancement chairman for the Boy Scouts’ Tejas District, which oversees troops in Mansfield, Kennedale, South Arlington and Everman. He said the district turns out an average of 25 to 30 Eagle Scouts a year.

“Eagle Scout is not a rank – it’s an award,” said Mark James, a Troop 1993 committee member and Eagle Scout who has been in the organization since 1958. “Eagle Scout stays with you as you get older.”

Becoming an Eagle Scout requires earning a raft of Eagle-level merit badges, including first aid, citizenship, camping and environmental science, and serving in a variety of leadership roles. The final challenge – like a dissertation for a doctorate degree – is a service project designed to benefit a non-profit organization or the community and to test the candidate’s leadership ability.

In fact, while the Eagle candidates have to collect materials and workers, they can’t lend a hand – only manage.

That was an adjustment for Trevor Baggett, 19, now an adult leader who has a younger brother in the Scouts. His team built a 16-foot-long, rolling table with storage space, for the Wesley Mission Center of the First United Methodist Church, which allots a room for Troop 1993 meetings.

“I found out that as the leader I don’t do any of the work myself, which was a lot harder than I thought it would be,” said Baggett, who works in construction now. “I always wanted to jump in with a hammer and help.”

Joe Kowalski,whose two older brothers are Eagle Scouts, had been a senior patrol leader, a position elected by the Scouts. Taking charge was more natural to him.

“I was an SPL at one point in time, so I had no problem with telling people what to do,” said Kowalski, who has been in Boy Scouts throughout his public school career, starting as a Cub Scout in first grade. He graduated with his Mansfield High School Class of 2013 in June.

For his Eagle project, he built a kneeling bench to place in front of the statue of Mary outside St. Jude Catholic Church and anchored a rose vine on the grotto above her head. He’s waiting for a final board of review to make the family’s triple-Eagle quest official.

For all the rarity of sibling Eagles, there is no shortage of examples, especially in Troop 1993. Brush counted 14 sibling pairs -- current and former members of the troop -- in which at least one brother was an Eagle Scout and the other was working toward it.

Among the recent ones are the two sons of Mansfield school board member Terry Moore. Reagan Moore built a pavilion behind the Linda Nix Family Caring Place, a clinic that serves lower-income families. Sam Moore did a landscaping project at the First United Methodist Church.

Other recent pairs include Connor and Calum Rodriguez, sons of Dallas Police officer Martin Rodriguez, and Alec and Reece Hanson..

Troop 1993, named for the year it was founded, has produced a total of 54 Eagles Scouts, including the very first Eagle, Michael Henderson, whose brother Billy followed him to Eagle in 1997. Recently, the troop has averaged about five new Eagles a year.

Adult leaders don’t pressure the boys to go for Eagle, he said.

“We’re not an Eagle machine,” Brush said. “The boys are supposed to want it on their own and go after it on their own.”

There is a little pressure at Kriste Ryan’s house, where she helps make the Eagle Scout program a top priority for her boys – especially if they want to drive before age 18.

“The rule in my house is, in order to have your drivers license, you have to have your Eagle,” said Ryan, who has three boys – including one Eagle Scout, 20-year-old Benjamen – and a daughter, Brianna, 8, a Brownie in the Girl Scouts.

“The Eagle shows they are responsible, they have the follow-through and the leadership, and hopefully the ability to stand up to peer pressure, to determine right from wrong,” added Ryan.

Benjamen, because of his Eagle Scout quest, earned his driving permit early. Nicholas, 15, and Paul, 12, who are Boy Scout members, can decide for themselves, their mother insisted.

If they choose care-free after-school days, Ryan said, “They can get their license when they’re 18 and have six months of money saved for insurance.”

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann

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