Archive | November, 2009

10 Years After the Texas A and M Bonfire Tragedy

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10 Years After the Texas A and M Bonfire Tragedy

Posted on 20 November 2009 by Dan

texas-a-and-m-bonfireThis week marked the 10 year anniversary of the Texas A and M Bonfire tragedy. The bonfire was an Aggie tradition since 1909, and was a symbol of the burning desire of Texas A and M to beat the University of Texas longhorns. On November 18th, 1999, at 2:42am the stack of logs collapsed killing eleven students and one Alumnus, and seriously injuring 27 others. The tragedy affected the Texas A and M Community and the entire country, and as it turns out, had a large impact on the Scouting Community.

A Northern Tier Alumnus, and friend, had pointed me in the direction Christopher Breen, one of the twelve killed in the collapse, thinking it would be a good story to share on Scouting News. However, as I did some research I discovered at least five killed in the tragedy were Eagle Scouts. Here are their stories:

The Texas A and M Alumnus that was killed, Christopher David Breen had a strong connection to Northern Tier. Chris was an Eagle Scout and was a Charlie Guide at Sommers Canoe Base during the summers of 1994 through 1997. Working at Northern Tier was a big part of who Chris was, and according to the notice that was sent out to the Northern Tier Alumni community, he was buried with his “Charlie Guide” canoe paddle. Chris’ legacy will forever live on through the Scout’s lives he touched while working as a Charlie Guide, and through a Northern Tier Seasonal Staff Scholarship in his honor.

Nathan Scott West from Bellaire, Texas was another Eagle Scout lost in the tragedy. West had graduated High School in 1998 with a promising future already in hand. He was a National Merit Scholar semi-finalist, had scored more than 1400 on the SAT, and competed on the Swim Team. John Harris, West’s Scoutmaster, recalled that for his Eagle Scout project, West refurbished the old St. Vincent’s Cemetery off Navigation, where Confederate Civil War hero Dick Dowling is buried. Once he became an Eagle Scout, West stayed in the Troop to help the younger Boy Scouts.

Lucas John Kimmel was an Eagle Scout, and was 19, a freshman at Texas A and M when the Bonfire collapsed in 1999. Lucas’ love for the outdoors personified him. It gave him the chance to be outdoors, and it gave him the chance to be with the animal life that he appreciated so much. This appreciation led him to A and M in hopes of someday becoming a veterinarian. “He loved animals. We lived out in the country. He found a baby bird in the field and we rescued it and got it growing up. Dogs, cats, rabbits. That’s why he wanted to be a veterinarian.”

Chad A. Powell, an Eagle Scout, a track athlete, a computer whiz, a musician, Chad always made time to serve other people. He also kept up his grades through all of that, graduating as valedictorian of his class at Keller High School in Keller, Texas. Described by friends as “A model of honor, true character, and loyalty. He honored his life with integrity, his family with love and devotion, his community with leadership, friendship, and service, his God with commitment and passion”.

The twelth man to die, Timothy Doran Kerlee, Jr. was an Eagle Scout from Germantown, Tennessee. When the stack collapsed his pelvis was crushed, his arm broken, and his internal organs badly damaged. Despite his own injuries he told rescuers to “Help my buddies first,” and proceeded to direct rescue workers to five others before allowing them to free him. He died later in the hospital when his life support was disconnected. Eagle Scout Tim Kerlee was posthumously granted Boy Scouts of America’s Medal of Merit, for his heroic actions.

Please take a moment to remember their lives and say a few words of support for their families and friends on this anniversary. You can read more about the Bonfire tragedy, the memorial, and its victims on the Online Texas A and M Bonfire Memorial.

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Pennsylvania Union Leader Criticized Over Eagle Scout Project Threats

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Pennsylvania Union Leader Criticized Over Eagle Scout Project Threats

Posted on 19 November 2009 by Editor

An update to the story about the City of Allentown, and the union eyeing up an Eagle Project that took place in a city park.

Fox News has an update about the situation:

Nick Balzano, president of the Service Employees International Union’s Allentown chapter, said last week that the union might file a grievance against the city for allowing 17-year-old Kevin Anderson to clear the hiking trail, instead of paying some of the 39 recently laid-off SEIU members to do the work.

Balzano’s office did not return messages left by FoxNews.com, but the Morning Call quoted him as telling the city council that the union would be “looking into the Cub Scout or Boy Scout who did the trails … There’s to be no volunteers.”

SEIU spokesman Matt Nerzig called Balzano’s comments “completely unauthorized and insensitive” and said the union was “not at all” considering a grievance in this case.

Read the whole story at Fox News.

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Scouts Honor Service Members at Ceremony

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Scouts Honor Service Members at Ceremony

Posted on 19 November 2009 by Editor

U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri told about 500 people from Boy Scouts’ National Capital Area Council that the values of Boy Scouts and the military are constant and that both organizations seek to serve something greater than themselves.

This was the first Scout dinner saluting the military. Retired Navy Capt. Scott Gray, who now works with event sponsor General Dynamics, said he hopes to make the event an annual affair. The Crystal Gateway Marriott – a stone’s throw from the Pentagon – hosted the event.

The council honored a service member from each service. Each honoree demonstrated the commitment to service that Scouting exemplifies and promotes, said former Veterans Affairs Secretary Togo West, an Eagle Scout and the event host. The Eagle Scout award is the highest in the organization.

The honorees are role models for youth and exemplify the values of both Scouting and the military, West said. “The Boy Scouts of America and the armed forces of the United States share … a common bond of service and honor,” he said.

Skelton, also an Eagle Scout, spoke of his experiences in Scouting since December 1943, when he first became a Tenderfoot Scout. It was World War II, and Skelton, now the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, talked about how his Scout troop would send off older Scouts as they went to war.

He praised the council for hosting an event that ties Scouting with the military. “One builds character, and the military defends our freedoms,” he said. “Scouting is not just an organization, it is a way of life.”

The honorees are:

– Army Staff Sgt. David R. Gibbons, based at Fort Bragg. N.C.;

– Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Valerie Herrod, a bostswain’s mate with the Navy Ceremonial Unit in Anacostia Naval Station, D.C.;

– Air Force Tech. Sgt. John A. Marshall, an aerospace medical expert at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.;

– Marine Corps Sgt. Henry J. Reinewald, a recruiter in Detroit; and

– Coast Guard Petty Officer Lavelas D. Luckey, based at the Coast Guard Station in Baltimore.

Gibbons enlisted in 2003 as one of the first Soldiers to go directly into Special Forces. He is an Eagle Scout and served in Afghanistan. He now is an instructor at the Special Warfare Center and School, and is the Bear Den leader for his son Ethan’s Cub Scout pack.

Herrod has served as the Ceremonial Guard’s community service coordinator since she arrived in December 2007. She has organized her sailors to help with local Special Olympics and National Lands Day, and for working with wounded warriors and at the Armed Forces Retirement Home.

While an Air Force medic, Marshall deployed with NATO troops in Afghanistan, where he saved the life of a Canadian Soldier. Here, he works closely to aid the homeless. He volunteers at a local soup kitchen and has initiated a blanket drive to aid the homeless.

Reinewald is another Eagle Scout. He joined the Marine Corps in 2001 and has deployed overseas as an artilleryman. Reinewald is a recruiter in Detroit and he hopes to work closely with recruits wishing to join the service.

Luckey received the Coast Guard Medal – the highest award in the service – for rescuing a 5-year old girl who was trapped in a burning car following an accident. He joined the Coast Guard in 1999 and has served aboard two ships.

“Those of you in uniform tonight, you are examples to our Scouts,” Skelton said. “That’s what the young Scouts of today must learn. They need to follow your example, because they are going to be in your shoes and they need to be challenged to give the best that is in them.”

This story was written by Jim Garamone, Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs.

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