There are certain patches, titles and other accoutrement that every lad who participates in the Boy Scouts of America receives. However, the red, white and blue coupled with a soaring national symbol is one that only the best of the best have presented to them, and the work put into that means a lot.
A feeling of pride was palpable Sunday afternoon as three local Boy Scouts were inducted into the ranks of Eagle Scout, the organization’s highest honor. Eighteen-year-olds Justin McAlexander, Conner Pogline and Wyatt Oberwitte, of Troop 144, received the distinction in front of family and friends, followed by a banquet at the American Legion Post 62.
The court of honor ceremony celebrates the program by acknowledging the traits of a good Scout — trustworthy, loyal, helpful — and the eagle as a symbol of nobility and strength. Only about 2 percent of those who join the Boy Scouts of America earn Eagle Scout status.
Among the requirements to become an Eagle Scout are at least six months spent at the rank of Life Scout, demonstrating leadership and earning a minimum of 21 merit badges, including first aid, camping and emergency preparedness.
“It’s been an adventure,” Pogline said about his time in Scouts.
Pogline chose to hold his court of honor at Friendship United Methodist Church rather than at the American Legion because of his ties to the building. Besides his grandparents’ association with the church, which serves as a sponsor of Troop 144, he also took on the task of refurbishing the recreational facilities as part of his Eagle Project within the past year.
His grandmother, Rev. Karen Gibson, said the work he and others have put in has helped increase the amount of activities for younger parishioners.
“The aesthetic beauty is so much better now, and the kids have been treating the gym better,” she said. “I’m grateful for his scout leaders supporting him all these years.”
As the scoutmaster for the troop, Bruce McAlexander was proud to see three Eagle Scouts in one year. An added bonus is being able to share the experience with his son Justin.
“It’s a joy,” Bruce said. “Both my sons are Eagles, and seeing all these guys come up and see everything they’ve accomplished is an honor.”
Bruce’s older son, Chris, was unable to attend his brother’s ceremony at the American Legion in person, but spoke via video-chat. Scouting is a significant part of the McAlexander family. Justin’s mother, Bobbi, also is heavily involved with the troop.
“I’ve also got a daughter who went all the way through the Girl Scouts, so we’ve been doing this for 16 years,” she said. “There’s been lots of camps and lots of fun, but also a lot of being strict with them to work on those books. Just a lot of memories.”
Although the newest members of the Eagle echelon argue about which merit badge is the most difficult to obtain, they all agree their camping trips have been the best time they’ve spent together.
Justin and Pogline first were involved in Scouts as early as elementary school, while Oberwitte didn’t join until about the age of 12.
“We’d known each other for a long time outside of scouting, so it wasn’t that big of a deal coming into that,” he said.
The group bonded together most when they traveled to Scout events that were out of state in South Dakota, Montana, Idaho and even as far as California.
Dario Georgiou, who attained the Eagle rank last year along with Zach Hansen, was in attendance to help with the court of honor for his fellow Scouts. Georgiou, 19, said the Craig boys often stuck out from the crowd.
“We were always kind of the oddballs out of every camp we went to,” he said.
The experience only served to bring them closer as a troop and strengthened their resolve in the program. And, though their time as a collective group may be coming to an end soon, the members of Troop 144 agreed that the Boy Scouts of America is an organization that likely will remain a part of all their lives in the future.
“It’s something you’ll never forget,” Justin said.
Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.