Scouting saved My Life

I could not agree more with the impetus of this group and its efforts to save Scouting.. Scouting, in my mind, is the premier youth program for moral education, development of character, leadership training, and healthy living in the world. I’d like to share my Scouting story in hopes that anyone who reads it might get a small sense of the importance of Scouting has been in my life.

I did my stint in Cub Scouts with many of my friends from school and the neighborhood and by the grace and patience of great Den Mothers (we’re talking the late 1950’s), I made it through to earn my Arrow of Light award. My living arrangements saw me moving around quite a bit. As a result, I didn’t join a Boy Scout troop until I was 161/2 years old.

A friend and neighbor asked me to speak to his troop about how backpack safely and comfortably. He knew that II had been to a wonderful summer camp in Estes Park, Colorado, where we backpacked or horse packed throughout the Rocky Mountains 8 to 10 days at a time for 8 weeks every summer. In the late 60’s, blind allegiance and the military (especially the Viet Nam war) were questioned and challenged publicly and loudly. Drug use and abuse was rampant. I agreed to give a talk to Troop 35, Los Altos, California but that I wasn’t interested in wearing the military style uniform or doing rank stuff. On June 2, 1968 (my 161/2 birthday), I gave my talk and felt really comfortable in the group. I filled out my application to join that night.

Given the options available to a sixteen-year-old in the late 1960’s, Scouting was the safer and healthier choice for me. Scouting taught me many important skills and values that would later save lives and make my life much easier. In 16 months and 19 days I earned my Eagle Scout Award, an accomplishment I am still proud of today.

After one semester in college, our “Uncle” called me to serve in the military in Viet Nam. I weighed my options and chose to serve in the United States Marine Corps where I served proudly for six years. I can’t begin to count the number of square knots and taut-line hitches I had to tie because no one taught my comrades any outdoor skills. The basic first aid skills I learned in Scouting were employed innumerable times. Young people in Scouting aren’t always aware that the leadership skills they are practicing are really life and life saving skills. In an emergency situation during battle, I was placed in a position where I had to guide a platoon of my peers through both combat and survival. Turns out, a cool head and a servant’s heart were all that was needed to get all of us through. It just seemed natural to lead. As natural as is became while SPL in my troop back home. The big difference between being an SPL at a camporee and platoon leader in the Corps was the other troops were shooting at us.

Returning home, after years of combat, to civilian life was challenging at best and ultimately terminal for far too many veterans of any war. Many succumbed to drug and alcohol abuse and deep depression. I was lucky. Almost immediately upon returning, I had an opportunity to become involved with Scouting again. I believe in my heart of hearts that Scouting saved my life once again. As I have moved around this country, through Scouting, I always have a supportive group of like-minded folks who eventually become life-long friends.

I have been involved in Scouting now for nearly 50 years and for me that involvement is a duty. I am attempting to repay Scouting for literally saving my life time and again. I had a fifty-year career as a teacher of mathematics at both secondary and university levels. This was a great platform for impacting the future of so many kid’s lives. Scouting continues to give me much broader opportunities to impact the development of character, leadership skills, healthy living, and a reverence for the outdoors.

I have been blessed with two daughters who at the time could not be involved in Scouting with the BSA. Instead, we participated in Girl Scouts USA for 7 years. My Grandsons are both active in their Cub scout Pack and I couldn’t be more proud of them. My affiliation with Scouting has ranged from unit to council levels. I currently serve Scout leaders as council training chair and as District Commissioner and I hope to continue the important work of bringing the life-long benefits of Scouting to young folks for another fifty years.

Submitted by: Greg Minckley of Odessa, TX