Spirit of the Eagle Award honors the Scouts we lost too soon

spirit-of-the-eagleIt’s a tragic reality that some Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturers are taken from us before their time.

These young people who die in an untimely accident or illness leave behind two grieving families: their actual family and their Scouting one.

To help bring these families a small bit of comfort, the Boy Scouts of America created the posthumous Spirit of the Eagle Award. It memorializes the contributions to Scouting these young people made during their time with us.

A recent, devastating example came out of the Sandy Hook school shooting in December 2012. Two of the victims, Chase Kowalski and Benjamin Wheeler, were Tiger Cubs, and the BSA’s Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock personally presented the families with the Spirit of the Eagle Award. It was a touching gesture that helped these families heal.

If, God forbid, a Scout or Venturer you know dies, there’s a process for applying for this award.

Unit committees submit an application to their local council, which reviews the request before submitting it to the National Court of Honor. The award is only eligible to youth members under the age of 21, and the application must be submitted within six months of the youth member’s death.

Learn more and find the application at this link.

Photo from Flickr:  Some rights reserved by DJMcCrady

15 thoughts on “Spirit of the Eagle Award honors the Scouts we lost too soon

  1. I think this is a wonderful gesture. Maybe National should consider this for Scouters, like myself, who have been with the program for many, many years, and are being called early, before their time. I found out yesterday I have lung cancer. I am 71 and had so many Scouting plans made for the next 2 years including NOAC. Now, I won’t even be around to celebrate that great event. I know my Eagle Scout son would appreciate something for all the service his Dad has given to Scouting.

    • Prayers are with you.
      In lieu of this particular National recognition, I’m sure your fellow scouters will team up and give your son some token that will be handed down to the generations. I think that’s what we all want — to inspire youth for longer than the years given us will allow.

    • Genuinely sorry to hear that. Thank you for your service to Scouting and to youth. Like q, my prayers are with you.

    • My thoughts and prayers are with you and your son, Barry. Thank you for your many years of service to Scouting. Your legacy will live on through your son and the Scouts you have lead throughout your Scouting career. May the Lord bless you and comfort you.

  2. When this award first came out it included Scouters, but then after awhile it was changed to just youth members. The “intent” is to honor those who died unexpected from an accident or illness (Note: it excludes suicide). In my opinion, I think what happened is every time a Scouter died he/she was put in for this award, regardless if they were sick for a long time and it was expected; or they just passed from old age, again not unexpected. That’s just my opinion, but I think that’s what happened.

      • It doesn’t say so on the application itself; but I do remember reading something about two years ago which excludes suicide. There was no reason given then, either. I personally feel that boys who were being bullied or placed into a corner whereby they felt they could not talk with anyone or get support from anyone; and as a result took their own lives to *me* would be candidates for this final honor.

        I DO however, field about seven or so emails weekly asking me “If we receive this on behalf of our son, does that make him an automatic Eagle Scout; and if so, how do we go about purchasing the medal, pin, etc. etc.?” I have to write and inform them that the Spirit of the Eagle Award does NOT imply that they are an Eagle Scout; nor does it entitle them to purchase or display the Eagle Scout cloth badge or medal nor to proclaim him as a “fallen Eagle Scout.” Eagle is *earned* and not presented for any reason other than a young man met all of the requirements at the time to earn Eagle. It’s tough sometimes and I’ll have to further send them to their local Council so that the Scout Executive there can explain it differently than I did.

        • Thank you, Mike for your response. We recently had a Scout suicide and the Spirit of the Eagle was suggested, but when I saw that suicides
          are exempt, I was concerned. Appreciate your help in this matter.

  3. I think this is a great idea on the part of the BSA. A nice thing for families of the Scouts who go too soon. I think this is the only award I hope no one in my troop earns (or anyone).

  4. We still do this today; but a few decades back the BSA provided Gold Stars to be placed onto the “pole side” of the unit flag to recognize those Scouts and Scouters who died during conflict in the Great War (and later Korea and Vietnam). There were also white or blue (can’t remember which right now) to recognize those Scouts/Scouters who were overseas during the War. Perhaps someone needs to dust off those old books and supply catalogs and make them available again.

    Barry, my personal prayers are with you and your family — the personal and the Scouting families. However, the Spirit of the Eagle Award certificate was and is meant for youth members to receive. Why? The name of the award was carefully chosen to give families some comfort — if not for the unforeseen, tragic situation, their son could have “flown out” to find life as Eagle Scouts. While many adults may fit the criteria, most of us have “flown out” and are doing okay in our work and life experiences. Not to say that Barry and many others are not deserving of recognition of their Scouting experiences. There are plenty of national and local Council ways to recognize the life of Scouters — but perhaps the one way in which I would personally recommend is what I have done for both of my parents: to set up a memorial fund in their names at the Council office. Each spring and fall (mom passed away on Tax Day; dad joined her eight years later on Labor Day Sunday), I send a letter reminding my relatives and friends of the impact my parents had on my life; and while they were not totally enthused with their oldest son participating in something “which does not pay out later”, they did encourage me to do what I love and love what I do, which is why I ask them to contribute to the local Council in my parents’ names (you can do the same by sending a tax-write off check or money order to the Moseanna and Robert Walton Memorial Fund, in care of the Lincoln Heritage Council BSA in Louisville Ky. Thank you). Barry, while you are still among us, I ask you to please consider this as part of your Scouting legacy. In this way, you can help preserve the parts of Scouting — in my parents’ case it was in-school Scouting — you feel deserves a few hundred dollars more each year for.

    We’re all in this together…

  5. Having experienced the suicide of a scout in the troop, I find it sad that it does not include those individuals. Scouting is often their only place to find camaraderie and acceptance, the place that meant the most to them, and yet they were overcome by other factors. It surely would bring some solace to their grieving families to see that they were valued by their fellow scouts.

  6. It is very timely that I find this today. Tomorrow my troop will attend services for a 17 year old life Scout who was working on his Eagle project.

    The Troops last memory of this young man was him helping prepare for a camping trip. We are a small but close knit Scouting family. We will miss his encouraging smile as well as his witness of both his faith and his Scouting values.

    Thank you for posting this as I had never heard of it before.

  7. It was my honor to be able to help fill the order for this award for a cub scouting who passed in a house fire last month. As an employee of the supply division it was touching how everyone in the young man’s pack as well as the my local council got behind everthing the family wanted to honor this brave young cub scout.

  8. Actually, having Wayne Brock present the Sandy Hook families with this award is what inspired me to become a more dedicated Scouter. My son had been a Cub for a few years, and I was the Pack Treasurer. When he moved up to Boy Scout, I became his Troop’s Treasurer. But I never “wore the shirt.” After hearing about this, Mr. Brock inspired me to order a shirt and really dedicate myself to being a true Scouter. Thank you for the inspiration.

  9. For the Sandy Hook Scouting community and the families of Pack 170, Wayne’s visit and presentations were both inspiring and comforting. It was also so gratifying to see our Scouting community, including our professional staff, turn out in great numbers to support the Kowalski’s and the Wheeler’s.

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