MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Sunday, June 5, was a historic day for Maplewood’s Boy Scout Troop 5, with 10 young men earning the coveted title of Eagle Scout, the highest Scouting rank.
Matthew Girardi, Joshua Heacock, Donald Jones, Jack Kelly, John Meusel, Russell Popa, Tyler Rivera, Tajeer Robinson, Adam Yawdoszyn and Campbell Zachara were awarded the Eagle Scout rank during a Court of Honor Ceremony in the Columbia High School Auditorium. Proud parents, relatives, friends, mentors, community leaders, Scoutmasters, fellow Troop 5 Eagle Scouts, and other members from Maplewood Troop 5 and East Orange Troop 8 were among those in attendance.
Eagle Scout is the highest achievement attainable within the Boy Scouts of America. During both 2014 and 2015, approximately 6 percent of eligible Scouts earned the honor; however, only 2 percent of all eligible Scouts have attained the rank since the inception of the Eagle Scout award in 1912.
“Becoming an Eagle Scout is really the culmination of a Scout’s entire Scouting career,” Maplewood Troop 5 Scoutmaster and Eagle Scout Roger Brauchli said in an interview with the News-Record. “It takes many years of hard work to combine outdoor skills, life skills and leadership skills, all of which the Scouts gain from being in the troop.”
As for the Court of Honor, “we really do it up,” Brauchli continued. “We do our best to make it a special occasion for not only the Scouts but also the audience as a whole.”
After a call to order by Senior Patrol Leader and Troop 5 Eagle Scout Corbin Berry and the presentation of colors, all in the auditorium rose to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. This was followed by Berry leading the Scouts in the recitation of the Scout Oath, which celebrates duty to God, country, fellow man and oneself.
“Today, 10 Scouts will join the ranks of the few,” Troop 5 Committee Chairman Robert Fay said at the event. “The rank of Eagle Scout is something they will be able to hold high as a symbol of accomplishment that most of their peers will never understand. The journey has been long and hard, but filled with experiences they may never have enjoyed had it not been for Scouting.
“They are now ready to face whatever comes to them with the confidence that is only achieved through knowledge and perseverance,” he continued.
After Fay’s welcome, the Eagle Court was officially declared in session by Thomas Kilkenny, chairman of the Court of Honor, as well as Troop 5 Assistant Scoutmaster and Eagle Scout. Kilkenny greeted Troop 5 as well as each of the Eagle Scout candidates’ parents by name. Next, he asked the Eagle Scout candidates to stand in a line facing the stage as Ian Meades, Troop 5 Assistant Scoutmaster and Eagle Scout, reviewed the different Scout ranks they had achieved on their way to becoming Eagle Scout candidates. Troop 5 Eagle Scouts Noel Donlin, Matthew Schilling and Daniel Brauchli — Roger Brauchli’s son, who is also a Troop 5 Assistant Scoutmaster — then explained the significance of the colors on the Eagle Scout badge.
After this review, the parents of each Eagle Scout candidate were escorted to seats on the stage, and one of the highlights of the afternoon began: the presentation of the candidates’ credentials. One by one, the Eagle Scout candidates stood at the front of the stage facing the audience as Roger Brauchli delivered synopses of what each had accomplished during his Scouting career and in preparation for the rank of Eagle Scout.
The lists of achievements highlighted camping and hiking triumphs, academic excellence, musical and athletic achievement, the earning of merit badges, leadership positions, church affiliations and volunteerism.
Although all of the achievements were lauded, particular emphasis was placed on the community service projects completed by each candidate. Heacock organized and led a beautification of the East Orange Veterans Administration Hospital front entrance, involving 169 total volunteer hours. Popa’s project resulted in vast improvements to the varsity and junior varsity baseball fields at Underhill Field, which required 260 total volunteer hours. And Kelly’s project benefited the Seth Boyden Demonstration School, Maplewood Troop 5’s meeting place for more than 60 years; 625 volunteer hours were donated by Kelly and his volunteers in order to create an outdoor classroom and assist the school’s outside garden program.
Every one of the community service projects demonstrated the grit, skill, determination, leadership and heart of the candidates. For these qualities and achievements, the Court of Honor saw fit to bestow the rank of Eagle Scout on each candidate.
“The awarding of the Eagle badge takes its place in the series of important events in the life of youth today,” Kilkenny stated. “We in Scouting feel it ranks at the top, and we are joined by many in the worlds of business, government, education and the military.
“Let us remember,” Kilkenny continued, “it is the youth of today that will inherit the world of tomorrow, and they must be prepared to do so.”
Roger Brauchli later built on Kilkenny’s words, saying, “Our country has had a great past, and with your help it can have a great future.
“We charge all of you to be among those who dedicate their minds, their hearts and their hands to the common good of all mankind,” he continued, “Build America on the solid foundations of clean living, honest work, dedicated, unselfish citizenship and reverence for God. Then, whatever others may do, you will leave behind you a record of which you may be justly proud. This is the Eagle Scout charge, and please remember, once an Eagle, always an Eagle.”
Eagle Scout badges were then presented to the parents, who proudly pinned them on their sons, as more than a few tears were shed both onstage and in the audience.
When all were pinned, the new Eagle Scouts and their parents faced the audience, which erupted into thunderous applause and a standing ovation. The new Eagle Scouts then honored their parents by presenting their mothers with miniature Eagle badges and their fathers with Eagle tie tacks.
Further praise, congratulatory words and honors were next presented to the new Eagle Scouts by state Assemblyman John McKeon, who represents District 27, and outgoing Maplewood Rotary Club President Mike Quick and incoming President Eric Yergan.
The final portion of the ceremony allowed each new Troop 5 Eagle Scout to address the Court of Honor, his parents and the audience as a whole. They recounted stories representing pivotal times in their lives and Scouting careers and they wholeheartedly thanked their parents, their Scoutmasters, their fellow volunteers and each other.
“I remember Roger Brauchli telling me that Scouting would present me with opportunities that I wouldn’t get anywhere else. I can proudly say that I have done my best to take advantage of all the opportunities that Scouting has presented me with … and I experienced it all with some of my closest friends by my side,” Zachara said in his speech, before profusely thanking his parents for their endless support and devotion to his Scouting career.
When the speeches were complete, the new Eagle Scouts were joined by all of the Eagle Scouts in attendance — an impressive sight.
Asked what it all meant to him after the ceremony, new Eagle Scout Girardi summed up the day by saying, “Oh, it means a lot. I think that the Ben Franklin quote of the true measure of a man being his ability to give back to his community (applies). I think we saw nine other kids and myself being able to fully celebrate being able to give back to a community and an amazing community being able to give so much to us.”
Photos by Cynthia Burks