The Scoutmaster's Corner
Well the time has finally come. Tomorrow night I will preside over my last meeting of the troop as Scoutmaster. Mr. Rick Wojtysiak has volunteered to become our new Scoutmaster and I am thrilled with his decision. Rick is an Eagle Scout and has served the past two years as an Assistant Scoutmaster. We have several new committee members and Assistant Scoutmasters as well and I want to thank all of them for volunteering. I am sure the troop is in good hands for years to come.
Someone once described me as a "storyteller". When I thought about that I had to agree with it and in fact embrace it. I try and live in the present but the stories of the past tell us so much about the future that we cannot forget them. An experience of a lifetime is not what is happening at the moment but all the experiences you have encountered since you can remember. So let me tell you a few of the stories about my time in scouting and some of the people I have shared it with.
Scouting has always been so much more to me than just camping. When my son Sean was in second grade we attended the "Join Scouting" night at our parish, St. Veronica's. Mrs. G. had asked me not to be the volunteer this time. The pack had a policy that it had to have a leader for each 5 boys that wanted to join. (this was before two deep leadership) If you didn't have enough leaders the boys could not join until enough leaders could be found. There were 15 boys who wanted to join. No parents raised their hands to volunteer. The organizer said we will all have to go home until we can get some volunteers. One dad raised his hand and his son was able to pick four other boys to make up their den. Once again the organizer said the rest of us would have to go home. Sean turned to me and said, "Your not going to do it are you", I took a breath and decided I could not turn him down so up went my hand. That was in 1987. Mrs. G. just smiled when we came home and Sean kept saying, he had to mom! It turned out to be one of the best years of our scouting careers.
We moved to our present home the next year and Mrs G. became a teacher at St. Matthias and we joined Pack 592. In 1991 it was time to bridge over to the troop. We had a great guy as Scoutmaster named Kelan Hendricks. He was a big bear of a man with a full beard but a gentle touch. He loved scouting and we thought this was going to be a great situation and I became Assistant Scoutmaster. It was a great first year in the troop. We attended Gardner Dam Scout Camp and were preparing to attend Camp Lefeber the summer of 92. Twenty two new scouts crossed over from the pack so we had almost forty boys signed up to go. Then tragedy struck. Mr. Hendricks, age 41, died suddenly of a heart attack two weeks before we were suppose to leave for camp. It was a traumatic time for our troop. I became Scoutmaster and with several new leaders that had just joined from the pack we attended camp as I am sure Mr. Hendricks would have wanted. I learned a great deal from Mr. Hendricks in that short time. Mostly, I learned that scouting was about so much more than just camping.
Over the years I have had many experiences with different boys and leaders that emphasize what I mean by more than just camping. John was in his second year with the troop and we had gone back to Gardner Dam camp for our long term camp. John had a habit of resisting help when he would get frustrated. I was trying to help him pass his swim test but he was struggling with it and became angry with me. After a heated exchange, not our first or last, I told John that there are things I cannot make you do but if you want to go on the tubing trip down the River on Friday you are going to have to pass that test. "You see John, you can't have everything in life just because you want it. Some things have got to be earned. When the rest of us leave on Friday without you, remember you had this chance." Well John didn't say anything to me after that, but he decided he wanted to go on the trip and spent the next couple of days during free time to practice his swimming. Thursday afternoon he ran up to me with a big smile yelling, "I passed it, I passed it! The look of success was written all over his face. I knew a young boy with no confidence when times got tough had just learned a valuable lesson about himself.
Paul was another boy dealing with his confidence. One year at camp he decided to take climbing merit badge. One of the requirements was to do a number of repels from the top of the tower. Of course the first one is always the most difficult. Paul was at the top with the instructors, all set in his harness, the ropes being properly handled below for safety. Now Paul knew all the safety precautions the staff took and that even if he fell, the people on the ground would lower him safely to the ground. When you are thirteen years old and standing on a high tower looking up at the sky and being told to jump, it isn't that easy. Paul hung there for forty five minutes until he was finally able to take that leap of faith. When he got to the ground he was a different person. Paul went on to star on his cross country team in high school, earn his Eagle Scout Award, attend college as an ROTC cadet and serve as an officer in the Navy.
Jared signed up to attend our first Philmont Scout Ranch High Adventure trip. Jared was just the minimum age to make the trip. He had not developed physically yet so I was worried if he would be able to handle the rigors of backpacking for two weeks in the mountains. We told all the boys what they should be doing over the months to get themselves in shape for this trip. We got a great deal of "ya, ya, sure". Jared however, quietly went about his business taking walks around his neighborhood with his pack on his back. We covered 72 miles of mountain terrain during the two weeks and Jared was with us every step. He never complained and did everything asked of him. He earned a great deal of respect from his fellow scouts, most older than him as well as his leaders. Jared learned that hard work preparing has it's rewards. He to went on to earn his Eagle Scout Award.
Richard was someone who gave up to easily. He was taking swimming merit badge and had to pass the clothes inflation requirement. You have to jump in the water with pants and shirt on. You have to remove the pants and tie the legs together and then swing them over your head which fills them with air and makes a floatation device. Richard was having some difficulties and was yelling to his instructor that he was too tired and had to get out of the water. I happened to be on the dock that day observing. I knew what Richard was going through and that he could accomplish this if he would keep trying. I would not let him out of the water. How cruel Mr. G! The young merit badge counselor didn't know exactly what to do but I was determined Richard had more in him yet. Once he knew I was not going to let him stop trying, he dug a little deeper and completed the requirement. Richard learned he had more in him then he thought. His Eagle Scout application was the last one I signed as Scoutmaster.
Whatever happened to that little guy who challenged me to become a Den Leader so many years ago? Well he was my very special scout. He was "one of the guys" as a young boy, well liked and always fitting in. As so many of his friends dropped out of Scouts I am sure he had the feeling that there weren't many boys his own age left but he never asked me if he could quit. He went through his rank advancements rather quickly and finished his Eagle project his sophomore year. Then the last few merit badges kind of dragged on. I remember his last summer camp. No other boys his age were there and he decided to carve a baseball bat out of a big piece of wood like in the movie "The Natural". Oh my, the young boys were just in awe of Sean. All of them watched him as he shaved away. Some of them tried to find wood they could try to carve. Sean learned what an impression you can make on someone who looks up to you just by your actions. He went on to complete his Eagle Scout requirements. At his Court of Honor he gave the best speech I have ever heard from an Eagle Scout. His message to the boys was; "Nothing or no one can make you an Eagle Scout unless you want to do it yourself." How profound that at such an early age he was able to understand that your future and your accomplishments are in your hands alone. It was a proud day for his mother, sister and I as he received his award but a sobering one as well. His Marine recruiting sargents attended and promoted him to the rank of Private First Class. It was a reminder to us that in a few short weeks he would leave home and possibly be in harms way.
There have been so many other leaders along the way that became such good friends. Some of these have gone on to better Scout Camps. Mr. Hendricks. Gary Kloss, our tough as nails army ranger who had a soft heart. The boys loved him. I miss you both. Vaughn Devorse who was a committee chairman and attended almost all of our outings until work forced him to relocate to Texas. Dale Schunk who replaced Vaughn as committee chairman and sailed with us at Sea Base. Mark Frauchy who served many years and back packed Philmont keeping me company at the back of the crew. Tim Sommers and Dan Tretow who planned our Northern Tier Boundry Waters high adventures. Dan has four Eagle Scout sons. Mike Hintz, our long time treasurer and wreath sale chairman. Mike has five sons all Eagle Scouts and I could write a book about their exploits alone. From Jamborees, to high adventures and weekend campouts they were among the most active and fun boys I ever had in the troop. All of the Barczak family!!!! Watching Shawn grow from new scout to Assistant Scoutmaster has been special. Bernie's tireless work as advancement chairperson has been indispensible. Phil Lamphear, our webmaster and former assistant scoutmaster. We shared many campfires and Philmont together. Another one of the boys favorites, Al Czubkowski. Al was one of the best teachers we have had as a leader. Rudy Pesut. Rudy had three boys in the troop and has spent a lifetime in scouting. He has planned many long term camps. Jim Komas, another leader who has always been there for me and the boys. Finally, Keith Brzezinski our current committee chairman. Keith has worn two hats as chairman and outdoor leader. Without Keith we would not have been able to go on many of the outings over the past several years. He has been an extremely dedicated scouter and friend.
Although they were not all scouts my most heartfelt thanks goes to my family. My wife Dawn, my daughter Kimberly and my son Sean. You can only imagine the number of times I have called on Dawn to help me prepare for a meeting. She has chased around more times and miles to pick up drop off and help with, than anyone should be asked. My daughter has sacrificed countless hours from dad when I have been away scouting and I don't think I can say I made those hours up to her. This would never have happened without that little boy asking dad, "you aren't going to do this are you?". Staying with it all those years and deciding to become an Eagle Scout are extemely proud moments for me.
At every Scoutmaster Conference I have to ask each boy, "Tell me how you have lived the Scout oath and law in your everyday life." This question makes them reflect on what those words are and what they mean. The young boys give simple answers like, I help my sister with her homework. As they get older I challenged them for more complex answers. At Eagle Scout Courts of Honor you have often heard me ask; "Do you get it". That means do you finally understand what scouting is really about. Do you understand the power of character development that scouting provides. Camping is a tool. A fun one but just a tool to help develop those qualities contained within the Scout Oath and Law. So the next time someone says to you, "scouts is just camping" tell them for me what it really is.
Now it is time to say farewell as Scoutmaster. Over the years I have belonged to many organizations and held many titles. Moderator, President, Director, Coach, Worshipful Master to name a few. Outside of husband and father none of these has been more precious than Scoutmaster.
I close with the words taught me by Scoutmaster, Ralph Kirkpatrick. "May the great Scoutmaster of all good and faithful Scouts, be with us until we meet again. Good night fellas, and remember,
I’ll see you on the Trail,