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Once a Scout, always a Scout

To the editor:

On Feb. 18 the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In an open letter, BSA National Chair Jim Turley claims this action was taken “to ensure we can equitably compensate all victims of past abuse in our programs.”

The focus of the country and national media is on the sexual abuse cases brought against the BSA. As an organization, we have failed – any instance of abuse is against the values of scouting and goes against both our oath and our law. I do not argue the seriousness of such cases and believe scouts must be protected at all costs. I rather suggest that local scouting numbers should not suffer because of the actions — most not even occurring in this century — of a few bad scout leaders across the country.

Every member of scouting, adults and scouts, must complete Youth Protection training. This instructs members how to prevent situations where abuse could arise, and ways to report any situation in which they question their safety. The buddy system ensures at least two people present at all times – always two adults or always two scouts. It helps prevent scout-on-scout hazing and inhibits adult one-on-one interaction with any scout. It applies to all situations from a meeting discussing merit badges or at camp completing backcountry first aid training. This is one method Youth Protection teaches and that troops enforce.

In addition, many local chapters such as St. Paul’s BSA Troop 6 (Salem, Ohio) require fingerprinting and background checks on every adult leader. Ninety percent of abuse cases against the BSA today occurred over 30 years ago before training like Youth Protection or modern screening processes were deployed.

I was awarded my Eagle Scout Award from Troop 6 by late Scoutmaster Terry McElroy. Some of the highlights from my time as a scout include community service, canoeing the Allegheny River, biking the Little Beaver Creek and Cuyahoga Greenways, trips to the Naval Academy and Put-In-Bay, camping every month, and backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Troop 6 also provided me with life skills through the Merit Badges I earned. I became skilled in wilderness survival, first aid, emergency preparedness, communication, cooking, budgeting, car maintenance, practicing good health habits, and certified in CPR. Finally, I made lifelong friends and priceless memories on the many camp outings exploring nature, history, eating pizza from a Dutch Oven and looking up at the night sky.

A considerable portion of my success as an individual can be attributed to my time spent with Troop 6, and I believe the many Eagles from Troop 6 would agree. Beyond our Eagle Scout projects throughout the community and long after leaving Troop 6’s ranks we are scouts. As professionals we are engineers, doctors, farmers, scientists, servicemen, naval officers, pilots, journalists, park officers, and more.

The Scout Oath is as follows:

“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”

I will always defend this Oath, and so will your local Scouting groups.

Owen W. Washam,

Laboratory Assistant, Small Fruits Pathology

Department of Horticultural Science

Kilgore 4, Raleigh NC

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