Boy Scouts have impacted Western Tidewater

Published 1:49 pm Monday, December 10, 2012

To the editor:

I had the great pleasure and the distinct honor of hearing something quite impressive this past Tuesday night just outside Franklin.

So much of what we currently take in audibly seems to be almost forced on us through the day-to-day musings of modern society and almost Orwellian media outlets. Of all the things I listened to that day, one thing stood out above and beyond the rest.

It was the voices of over 30 boys and young men willingly, without hesitation, without remorse, without compromise, and in unison saying:

“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.”

Many people in the area may know that there was a new “Scout Shack” built on the grounds of the recently constructed High Street United Methodist Church. The church sponsors Boy Scout Troop 17, and they moved in the new building Tuesday night.

While Troop 17 Scouts were excited to be meeting in their new facility for the first time, opening the meeting by reciting the “Scout Oath” was by no means the first time the words above have been heard in Franklin.

The “Scout Oath” has been versed for almost a century in our area. The Boy Scouts of America celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2010, and Troop 17 will celebrate its 100-year anniversary next year.

A century of commitment is no small task for any volunteer organization especially in a rural area such as ours. Understand that the words of the “Scout Oath” have not changed since the founding of the Boy Scouts of America, a testament to the strength of the organization and its ideals.

All the history that has passed through our land and altered the face of our nation in the past 100 years — world wars, depressions, movements, conflicts, terrorism and the propensity for changes that seemingly bind people unwillingly to the wanton disregard of that which is just and good.

All of these things have had no bearing on the “Scout Oath,” and no altering of the principles of scouting that makes young men active in their community. And seemingly on a local level, no amount of floods, hurricanes, or mill closings can hamper the scouting movement.

Yet in its century of unwavering principles and in my own three decades of knowing the “Scout Oath,” most recently an assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 17, I heard something a bit different Tuesday night.

The voices seemed to echo off the walls of the new meeting place, and I heard the spirit of all the Scouts in Franklin and Southampton past, present and future.

I somehow heard the hours, days, weeks, months and years of time volunteered by local people that have been Scout leaders; I heard the laughter of Scouts at camp. I heard weeping for Scouts in the crash; I heard the mothers who watch an Eagle pinned on their son’s chest.

I heard a group of local entities that bound themselves together for the common good; individuals, organizations, businesses and generations of Scouts who made the dream of a new building become a reality for a local Scout Troop.

I heard the heartbeat of a community that is one of the greatest places I’ve ever known. I heard the next 100 years of Troop 17 and the next century of the Boy Scouts of America.

Joe Belmonte