Boy Scouts, for the large majority of the twentieth century was a benchmark American organization. By that I mean that it was an organization which stood for the essence of American values. An organization which focused on the development of young men to serve as noble American leaders in government, the military, church, society, and most importantly, the American family. It is no understatement to say that Boy Scouts was the “gold standard” for the leadership development of young men in America in the twentieth century. In terms of metrics, there is simply no other organization which can touch it. Over forty American astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, have been Eagle Scouts (the highest rank attained in Boy Scouts). From President Gerald Ford to movie director, Steven Spielberg, Boy Scouts have influenced America in massively transformative ways. Nine Eagle Scouts have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
But for many of us, Boy Scouts was more than a statistic. For six years or longer during high school, it was our life. Sleeping out underneath the stars. Riding a horse. Shooting a gun. Gutting a fish. Building a Fire. Setting up a tent. Cooking a meal. Trying to stay warm. Gazing at the sunset. Paddling a canoe. Performing a skit. Earning a badge. Delivering a speech.
Not that it was something we merely did. But rather, it is where we found ourselves. Scouting or more specifically, the men who volunteered their precious time to lead in our troops, forged us into men. We learned responsibility and respect for others. We found the lost American kinship of brotherhood. And most importantly we learned to revere God—my troop had chapel services every Sunday we were camping.
For many of us, we were forced to leave scouting behind, not because we wanted to go, but because we had to tackle what was next. For me, college and military service in the Marine Corps beckoned.
But for myself, and I would bet thousands of others, even though I had to move on, the organization remained with me, tucked away in a sacred part of my memory forever. There is a purity in Boy Scouting, at least there was in the Boy Scouting that I knew, which is truly unlike anything else. A hallowed ground so-to-speak. It’s hard to describe it for the same reason that it is nearly impossible to articulate the numerous qualities which require a boy to become a man.
But somewhere, between when I pitched my tent in a river bed on my first campout when I was eleven and when I dismissed the troop for the final time as Senior Patrol Leader five years later, I had become a different person. Yes, I had become an Eagle Scout. But that didn’t matter anymore. What mattered was that I had become a man and had been initiated into a “band of brothers” along the way.
That is what is sacred. That is what is pure. That is what is hallowed.
The transgender ruling does not change that. I will always have those memories. But I also always hoped to have the Boy Scouts. Like many other men, who left the Boy Scouts as an eighteen-year-old, I hoped to one-day return as a forty year-old, with my son in tow. But now there is nothing to return to. When an organization compromises on such a fundamental level, that its name no longer bears any semblance of meaning, it is time to move on.
Sometimes you leave an organization. And sometimes it leaves you.
In this case I turned around and the organization that I had loved as a boy was no longer there. It has simply died—dying the death of a thousand political qualifications. And that saddens me greatly, because something sacred has been lost for the next generation of young, American men.
I am encouraged to see new organizations, such as Trail Life USA, and churches now making it a priority to train boys into men.
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