Scouter honored for heroism during Navy Yard shooting

Navy Capt. Edward “Chip” Zawislak is a real-life superhero, and he learned those skills in Scouting.

Zawislak, an Eagle Scout and Scouter with Troop 903 in Southern Maryland, rescued and used first aid on a woman shot during the Washington Navy Yard attack on Sept. 16, 2013.

Yesterday, the BSA’s National Capital Area Council honored Zawislak (at center in the photo above) with its highest lifesaving award: the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms. An average of four of those awards are presented per year nationwide.

A lone gunman, whose name I won’t include here, killed 12 during the shooting and injured three. One of those injured was Jennifer Bennett, who was shot in the chest.

As this Washington Post story explains, Zawislak and two co-workers carried Bennett up some stairs to the only open door they could find. It led to the building’s roof. Still unsure whether the shooter knew they were up there, Zawislak stayed focused and applied pressure to Bennett’s wounds for more than an hour.

Zawislak, 45, told another civilian to write a note saying there were four people on the roof and throw it down to police. Soon after, a police officer arrived, helped stabilize Bennett and guarded the door while the four civilians were rescued by helicopter.

Bennett made a full recovery and sat in the front row during Thursday’s ceremony honoring Zawislak.

Hearing Bennett recount to the Post the story of Zawislak’s heroism gives me goosebumps. What she describes is exactly how you’d expect an Eagle Scout to react in the most dramatic situation imaginable: Continue reading

Silver Antelope recipient could be youngest in history

andrew-millerAt just 32 years old, Andrew Miller has already built a Scouting résumé that rivals some of the movement’s most tenured Scouters.

He helped develop a Merit Badge University at Harvard, wrote the syllabus for a first-year camper program, served at the region level on the NESA scholarship committee and at the national level on the Camp Standards Task Force.

So it’s no surprise that last week he received the Silver Antelope, the regional-level distinguished award of the Boy Scouts of America. It’s the second-highest award the BSA gives adult Scouters (after the Silver Buffalo).

What is a surprise is his age.

The Scouters I talked to agree that if Miller isn’t the youngest Silver Antelope recipient ever, he’s among the youngest in history. I’m not aware of a way to confirm a recipient’s age at the time he or she earned the award, but there probably aren’t many getting this award in their early 30s.

I sat down with Miller at the BSA’s National Annual Meeting last week in Nashville, Tenn., and could not have been more impressed with the man. If he’s the type of volunteer who will be leading the BSA in 20 or 30 years, the future of our movement is in great hands. Read on for Miller’s story. Continue reading

Leave your feedback on these Venturing award prototypes

Now that the requirements for the new Venturing awards have been released, attention turns to what the awards themselves will look like.

Will they be medals? Badges? A combination of the two?

Turns out you and other Venturers or Venturing advisors can have a say in the final decision. But you need to leave your feedback soon.

Most Venturers I’ve talked to want awards that look unique to Venturing — something nobody else has. No matter what ends up being used to represent the Venturing, Discovery, Pathfinder and Summit awards, the new requirements show me that these awards will help Venturers get even more out of an already awesome program.

The volunteer-led team behind the changes to Venturing is looking for constructive feedback based on the pictures I’ve posted below. As we learned in Wood Badge, feedback is a gift and will be treated as such.

The collection of sticky notes you see is from volunteers and professionals who left their feedback in person at the National Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn., this week. But you have a voice, too, so be heard by leaving a comment.

Time is of the essence here, so please share your feedback by Wednesday, May 28.

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More on the 2014 Silver Buffalo recipients’ service to youth

silver-buffalo-2In February I posted a list of the 2014 recipients of the Silver Buffalo Award, and today I’d like to share what those individuals did to earn Scouting’s highest honor for adults.

Why today? Because tonight the noteworthy nine will get their medals in a special recognition ceremony at the BSA’s National Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

The Silver Buffalo, for those who aren’t aware, is given by the National Court of Honor to individuals who have given “noteworthy and extraordinary service to youth.” Just 741 men and women have earned the award in its 88-year history.

Follow the jump for the official citations included in tonight’s program honoring the Silver Buffalo Award recipients. They were written by Scouting magazine contributor and Eagle Scout Mark Ray. Join me in congratulating these awe-inspiring awardees.

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Allow me to brag about my dad, who gets the Silver Antelope today

Thirty-two incredible Scouters will receive the Silver Antelope today, but forgive me for focusing on one in particular for a few minutes.

My dad, Don Wendell, is one of eight Scouters getting this prestigious regional award from the Southern Region today at the BSA’s National Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

The Northeast, Central and Western regions each will honor eight Scouters as well. (See the full list of awardees at the end of this post.)

The Silver Antelope recognizes a Scouter’s service at a regional level, much like the Silver Beaver does for council service and the Silver Buffalo for national service.

In a few hours, my mom, Kay, and I will beam with pride as the yellow-and-white medal is placed around my dad’s neck.

He’s earned it.

After nine years as a youth in Scouting (don’t worry, Dad, I won’t say which nine years) and earning the Eagle Scout Award, he rejoined the movement in 1990 when I was old enough to be a Tiger Cub.

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Now there’s a new, third way to wear Eagle Scout palms

eaglepatchEagle Scout’s the highest rank in Scouting, but it’s not the end of the road.

An Eagle Scout who earns five merit badges beyond the minimum amount (and meets other requirements) will receive a Bronze Palm. He’ll get a Gold Palm for 10 extra merit badges and a Silver Palm for 15. He can wear multiple palms if he gets to 20, 25, 30, etc.

Until January, there were two places he could wear these palms: on the ribbon of the Eagle medal and on the Eagle square knot, which is only worn by adults.

Now there’s a third.

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Pins with a point: How to properly wear BSA service stars

service-star-1Been involved in Scouting for more than a year? You get a gold star.

All youth or adult leaders who have reached one year of tenure with the Boy Scouts of America are eligible to begin wearing service stars. The stars are an underused outward symbol of how long you’ve been involved and a quick way for new Scouts, parents and leaders to see who has Scouting experience.

Anyone can simply walk into a Scout Shop (or go to and purchase the pins and color background. There’s no application.

Scouters and Scouts are trustworthy, so the BSA trusts someone born in 1960, for example, not to purchase and wear a 60-year pin.

Stars start at one year and go up to an impressive 90 years (though you can combine multiple stars to send that number even higher). They’re worn with a specially colored backing that corresponds to the appropriate Scouting program.

But what if your Scouting tenure spans several programs, includes time spent in Scouting as a youth or has a gap of several years? That’s when things get a little trickier — but not much. I’ll answer those questions after the jump.

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Eagle Scout Connor Stotts receives 2014 Citizen Honors award

On July 31, 2011, Eagle Scout Connor Stotts singlehandedly saved the lives of three swimmers caught in a dangerous riptide near Oceanside Beach, Calif.

Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation

This bravery earned Connor the BSA’s Honor Medal With Crossed Palms, as well as the Carnegie Medal (which came with a $5,000 reward). But the college sophomore now has another award to add to his collection: a 2014 Citizen Honors award.

Selected by living recipients of the Medal of Honor — the highest award bestowed upon military heroes for acts of wartime valor — the Citizen Honors awards recognize three civilian American heroes for acts of bravery in their daily lives. Connor’s actions certainly fit the bill.

(Read on to learn more about Connor and find out how you can watch the Citizen Honors Ceremony March 25 at Arlington National Cemetery.)

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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.

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Interpreting ‘under the auspices’ in National Outdoor Awards requirements

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Two perfectly reasonable people can read the same phrase and have drastically different interpretations. Just ask the U.S. Supreme Court.

That happened recently in a troop in eastern Washington. The phrase in question relates to the National Outdoor Awards, and a Scouter contacted me looking for guidance.

But before I get to his question and the expert’s response, let me put in a quick plug for the National Outdoor Awards, which I first told you about in 2010. The awards are earned by Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts who demonstrate knowledge and experience in the outdoors. There are five segments: Camping, Hiking, Aquatics, Riding and Adventure. They’re a ton of fun to earn, and they reward Scouts for doing things they love to do anyway.

Scouts who go above and beyond can earn National Outdoor Award Devices and even the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement. See the full list of requirements here.

But back to our eastern Washington Scouter’s question. He noted that each of the five segments’ requirements uses the phrase “under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America.”

For example, take this requirement from the Hiking segment:

“Complete 100 miles of hiking or backpacking under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America … “

We know “auspices” means “endorsement and guidance,” but what exactly qualifies as “under the auspices of the BSA”? Here’s what the Scouter said in his email:

The National Outdoor Awards use the word “auspices” to describe qualifying activities. The question is what “auspices” means? Some people believe that this means that the requirements must be completed as part of organized unit activities and that any activity performed as an individual Scout, even if performed with the intent of earning the award, does not qualify.

Here’s the clarification from Eric Hiser, member of the Camping Task Force who was also the designer and developer for the award. In other words, he knows of what he speaks. Continue reading