Boy Scout Heroes

boy_scout_with_oath.jpgMy friend Russ emailed me a while ago with some “ramblings of a lifelong Boy Scout”. It is the Scout Sabbath tomorrow when the group celebrates their founding in America so today is a good day for me to finally write about Russ’ ramblings.

The Scouts motto is “Be Prepared”. That’s right in line with the idea in the Hero Workshop of the heroic habit leading to heroes-in-waiting. By regularly practicing character and learning useful skills Scouts are preparing for incidents that will require them. You can see this happening in news stories fairly regularly. The president of Maldives was saved from a would be assassin recently by a Boy Scout named Mohamed Jaisham. He said, “The Scout motto is ‘Be Prepared’, and at that time I was prepared. It helped me so much. It’s my training”. Russ supplied this article about some Scouts bring an injured woman down a mountain on a stretcher they made. That’s enough from me – here’s what Russ had to say.

My background is that of a lifelong Boy Scout and former full time Paramedic.

The term “hero” is frequently utilized in the public safety arena, especially following September 11. I think that the Boy Scouts hit on something when they limit their recognition to actions which are outside of any established duty.

I believe the traits of a hero can be taught. The Boy Scouts strives to teach young men about character and integrity through the 12 points of the Scout Law (Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent)and the Scout Oath (On my honor I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country, to obey the Scout Law, to help other people and all time, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight). It is people who demonstrate accepted character traits such as these on a daily basis that come closest to my internal definition of a hero.

The actions recognized in many of the heroism awards are the results of utilizing the skills taught through the program such as first aid, water rescue or wilderness survival when the opportunity arises – without the obligation to help. It is these selfless acts that are often reported in the media.

As I have tried to examine the “heroes” of my life I struggle. Many people played a significant role in helping me come the person that I am but as I have gotten older I have become a bit of a cynic. Those adults that had the biggest impact on me as a youth were human and often had significant flaws in other parts of their lives.

I wonder if the term hero is better applied in death rather than life – somewhat like the word saint. Do their actions stand the test of time and rise to the top as the overall description of a person’s character.

There’s a lot of good points in there.

  • The cynicism of adult life making it harder for us to imagine who our heroes are. How much easier was it to identify your heroes as a child?
  • Helping without obligation. When it’s your duty to help, does that really make you a hero?
  • Demonstrating desirable character traits on a regular basis.

I know there are some ex-Boy Scouts reading. Chuck or AJ, what are your thoughts on heroism in the Scouts? Are there any ex-Girl Scouts reading? Are there similarities or differences?

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7 Responses to Boy Scout Heroes

  1. Lisa February 8, 2008 at 7:29 pm #

    Well, surprisingly enough, I’m an ex-girl scout. I feel that there are some similarities between the boy scouts and girl scouts; however, it’s all about how good of a troop you are in and how much they want to do with or for you. I do remember times visiting senior centers and participating in community service but it’s nothing compared to the experiences that Chuck has had.

    I have some mixed emotions about the obligation of duty versus hero scenarios. On one hand, I have to agree with Russ. If it is your obligation, your job, to do the heroic actions it does not necessarily make you a hero. However, those individuals choose that lifestyle, often times putting themselves at risk day after day. Does that not classify as a hero when they could choose something else? If you ask many of those within those careers; police officers, firefighters, etc-they would not classify themselves as heroes though. Simply one person doing their job. But then again, isn’t humility one of the traits of a hero?

  2. Matt Langdon February 8, 2008 at 7:33 pm #

    That is a VERY good point. The choice of entering a risky professional could well be considered heroic in of itself.

  3. Charles D. Leibrand February 26, 2008 at 11:24 pm #

    Be Prepared

    Careful planning had brought Ôishi Kuranosuke Yoshio to this point. He and his forty-six men donned the armor and weapons they had cached for nearly a year. Moving swiftly through the snowy night they made their way to the Edo estate of Kira Kozukenosuke Yoshinaka. Their mission was one of revenge, one that they set about with grim determination.
    Kira had been charged one year earlier with teaching their Lord, Asano Takumi no kami Naganori, in matter of court etiquette. For this Kira had demanded payment, Asano felt that it was Kira’s duty and refused to pay the bribe. The animosity between the two men grew, with Kira continually taunting Asano. The feud continued until Asano finally snapped and attacked Kira in the Shogun’s palace wounding him superficially. Asano dishonored himself by breaking the peace in the Shogun’s castle, violence with in the confines of the castle was against the law. Asano was taken into custody and for himself he would only say two things in his defense, that he bore the Shogun no ill will and that he regretted not killing Kira. The Shogun passed a death sentence on Asano and in April of 1702 Asano committed seppuku, Japanese ritual suicide. According to the tenets of Bushido this would have restored Asano’s lost honor and should have ended the mater. Unfortunately along with the death sentence the Shogun also confiscated Asano’s estate and released his retainers. The Samurai sworn to protect their lord now became ronin, master less samurai without honor.
    In feudal Japan what governed individual behavior for a Samurai was Bushido, the way of the warrior, a code of ethics and morality the Samurai held above material possessions and even life itself. Upon Asano’s death Ôishi and his men found them selves in a quandary, they had pledged their lives and loyalty to Asano, according to bushido they had lost honor by failing to protect their Lord from dishonor and were now dishonored themselves. The Shogun had ordered that no one should avenge Asano and that the mater was closed, however according to bushido to regain their honor they must avenge their master by killing Kira. To do so however would force them to break the Shoguns peace in the mater placing them selves in dishonor again. Some of Ôishi’s men urged immediate action but Ôishi counseled them to wait. He urged caution as they would only get once chance at revenge. For the next year they would pose as thieves and beggars, hide weapons and armor and wait for the right moment to strike.
    On the night of December 14 1702 the forty-seven ronin seized the opportunity for revenge. Slipping into the Kira’s Edo compound they attacked only those who opposed them, servants and retainers were ignored. They moved swiftly though the mansion until they located Kira in an outbuilding. Ôishi offered Kira an opportunity at seppuku, when he refused Ôishi to the same blade Asano had used to commit seppuku and severed Kira’s head. Ôishi then dispatched one his samurai, the youngest, to tell the Shogun of what they had done. The other forty-six took Kira’s head and proceeded to the grave of their former master Asano where they presented the head to his sprit.
    The Shogun was now faced with a moral dilemma, on one hand he was impressed with Ôishi and his men’s adherence to bushido, on the other they had broken the law. Rather then execute them as common criminals the Shogun ordered Ôishi and forty-five of his men to commit seppuku. He spared the man who brought him word of Ôishi’s deed. On February 4, 1703 the forty-six ronin were separated into four groups each supervised by a different daimyo. All forty-six simultaneously committed seppuku. They were buried with their master at the Sengaku-ji Temple.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7f/Sengakuji_temple_entrance.jpg/800px-Sengakuji_temple_entrance.jpg
    Sengaku-ji Temple as it appears today

    Ok I know what you’re thinking what does that have to do with heroism let alone the scouts? Well everything. Understand that I’m not attempting to evaluate the morality, ethics or heroism of bushido with this story; I’ll leave that to you. What I am showing is that these men had a code, a code for personal behavior; a code they held so deeply that they valued it more than life itself. This is not the only code in history they are many examples, chivalry, the Ten Commandments, the United States Marine Core and the Boy Scouts. That’s right the Boy Scouts. The Scout Law, the Scout oath and the Scout Motto form the basis of a code of personal behavior. Look at some of the words that are used law, oath, honor, best, and duty, powerful words with powerful meanings. They form the basis of the core beliefs of a scout. They shape his ethics and his morality. Does that make him a hero? No, but it does form the base values from which actions will be derived. Values which place a greater importance on personal behavior over material gain. Do the values of the Scouts create heroes? Do all scouts get it? No probably not on both counts. What these values do is create a moral ethical template against which personal behavior is measured and acted upon. It is the acting on these values that is heroic and that is what the Scouts does; it gives boys a code to live by.
    Our society has lost it sense of itself, our society has no code. Many of us have been taught to follow a haphazard concept of individualism that places greater value on material gain then upon the more ethereal concepts of right and wrong. We have a corrupted morality which leads to corrupted values which leads to corrupted integrity with leads to actions that only benefit the self in a material way. Now I’m not talking about altruism, what I am talking about is holding a set of values which places trust, loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness, courteousness, kindness, obedience, cheerfulness, thriftiness, bravery, cleanliness and reverence ahead of money, power, possessions and fame.
    As a youth I spent many Thursday nights and weekends participating in activities that showcased these values, I spent a lot of time pondering, discussing and dissecting these values and how they applied to me and my society. I spent time learning them, memorizing them and reciting them. I was little surprised to find that after nearly twenty-one years away from scouting I still remember the law, oath and motto. Be prepared; in my youth I thought “Be Prepared” meant that you should have every little tool in your backpack, have all the necessary training before an outing, know all your knots, signal and first aid skills. I was wrong. “Be Prepared” is simpler. It means be prepared to live up to your code, be prepared to be measured by it, be prepared to be held accountable to it; as Asano, Ôishi and the other forty-six ronin were prepared to be held to their own code three hundred and five years ago.

    Charles D. Leibrand
    February 26, 2008

  4. Anonymous April 23, 2009 at 3:37 pm #

    salu

  5. vishnu August 8, 2009 at 6:53 am #

    thank u 4 that information please get me some pic of bucket chain method

  6. Harkintunde December 5, 2009 at 9:52 am #

    I will like to be a Scout, I am from Nigeria Scout troop G Agege.. email and let me know that the details.. omo.aremo1@yahoo.com

  7. saber Abdou December 18, 2009 at 12:13 pm #

    i oneed to be a member of your group