September 11th and The Phoenix Project

This year is the 18th anniversary of September 11th, and everyone of a certain age remembers when they heard the news that day. If you lived in New York City, or the Metro DC area you probably have a story of what you experienced. This is the story of my experience.

The original construction of the Pentagon started on September 11th, 1941 (yes, that is true) and was completed in January, 1943. It is the largest low-rise office building in the world and 25,000 military and civilian employees work there on any given day. In the 1990s at 50 years of age, the building had several problems and a determination was made to renovate it, one Wedge at a time. In 1993, I became a part of the team assigned to upgrade the computer and communications systems, as a part of the Renovation. I eventually became the lead civilian engineer for the National Military Command Center (NMCC), and a couple of years later the lead civilian systems integration engineer for all of the networks and systems going into the renovated Pentagon. It was a great job, and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. In 2000, I had the opportunity to become the Technical Director (think CTO) for a division of the company I worked for, SRA, and I moved back to our corporate headquarters. It was a promotion, but I was sad about leaving the Renovation Program.

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, I was sitting in a meeting with a few people in our company offices. A little after 9:00AM, the door to the conference room burst open and someone shouted a plane hit one of the twin towers. Pat, my boss, said he knew about it, and it was only a small off-course plane. The other person said, no, two large planes crashed into the Towers. We all jumped up and out of the room to find a TV and see what was going on.

A few minutes later, we received word a plane also crashed into the Pentagon. My stomach tightened in a knot. Oh shit. We had over 40 people working in the Pentagon on the Renovation and other programs. In fact, my old team had just finished renovating the Navy Command Center three weeks before. It was in the Wedge of the Pentagon hit by the plane.

Pat asked me to track down all of our Pentagon related personnel. As I started making calls, it was something of a madhouse in the hallways outside my door.

I called our office a couple of miles from the Pentagon and was able to get the status on a few of our people. The others were still unknown. Many worked full time in the Pentagon, or were there for meetings that day. We had a call tree for disaster situations. Unfortunately, when the Pentagon was hit, cell service was so overloaded it was almost impossible to get through to people. Landlines only seemed marginally better.

Around 10:00AM, the first tower fell. A bit later the second tower also went. Near 11:00AM, the outside portion of the Pentagon Wedge where the plane crashed, collapsed and the fire intensified. At our office, people were departing work and trying to get to their families around the beltway. They were expecting another plane and wanting to reach their loved ones.

Time went by blindingly fast and morning turned to afternoon. Slowly we were finding people. One person was chased down a hallway by a fireball before he ducked into an open door and the fireball whooshed by. The smell of smoke and jet fuel was overpowering. Someone else jumped out of an interior second floor window and hurt his leg, but was otherwise OK. My friend Tom was suppose to attend a meeting in the Navy Command Center, and missed the start because his metro train was delayed. He was walking across the Pentagon when the plane hit and the Command Center was destroyed. Of the 189 people who died at the Pentagon September 11th, 42 were in the Navy Command Center.

Sometime in the afternoon Cathy called. She had tried to reach me for a while, but couldn’t get through. I confirmed I was OK. My job carried me around the DC metro area, including the Pentagon, so she wasn’t sure where I was that day. It was good to hear her voice. I told her I wasn’t sure when I’d be home.

The afternoon turned late. More reports came in and I learned a number of our folk were evacuated from the Pentagon into nearby Crystal City. We added their name to the growing list of people confirmed alive from our company. Since metro was now out of service near the Pentagon, they had to walk several miles to return to our corporate offices where their cars were parked. One of our engineers, Bobby, was in the Wedge where the plane crashed, but only suffered a broken shoulder when he was slammed into a wall from the explosion. He walked out of the building with his arm hanging at his side.

Finally, around 6:30PM, we tracked down the last missing person. Everyone in our company had survived and only Bobby had to go to the hospital. It was a bit of relief on a grim day.

A while later, near dusk, I drove home. Route 66, normally jammed with the evening rush hour, was amazingly empty. Most folk had evidently left work much earlier in the day to be with their families. There was literally no traffic and I reached home in record time. I called my folks and returned a couple of calls from concerned friends. Cathy and I had a quiet dinner as we watched TV cycle and recycle through footage of the towers, news about the plane crash in Pennsylvania, and video of the still burning Pentagon. It was the first time I actually saw the footage of the Pentagon’s destruction, as I was glued to the phone all day. We eventually went to bed, and a sleepless night.

The story doesn’t end there.

We can never forget the event of 9-11. We should also remember The Phoenix Project, returning the Pentagon from the ashes.

The next couple of days were a blur of both activity and inactivity. The world had changed, although most of us weren’t yet aware of exactly how. The Pentagon was still functioning, and over 10,000 people reported for work on September 12th. The vast majority of the communications and computer systems outside the destroyed Wedge survived, however, there were some interconnectivity and redundancy issues.

A day later I received a call and was asked to attend a meeting at the Pentagon Renovation headquarters, just outside the Pentagon in a Modular Office Complex (we called it the MOC). I arrived, and I believe there was still smoke coming out of the Wedge hit by the plane. The meeting was to discuss measures to address the issues with the networks in the Pentagon, provide work-arounds for the destroyed Wedge, and address fitting out a temporary Navy Command Center. The meeting went on a few hours and general plans were established and work started.

At the start of October, a decision was made and a goal established to fix and reopen the destroyed part of the Pentagon by September 11th, 2002. The Phoenix Project was born, and the crews involved worked like fiends. While I wasn’t a part of the team directly working on the Phoenix Project, I was indirectly involved through corporate and project oversight of our parts of the effort. I had many friends and coworkers involved, and their story is a great one.

The phrase “Let’s Roll”, borrowed from Todd Beamer who died on UA Flight 93 in Pennsylvania, became the project’s slogan. The team removed the debris and wreckage, tested the infrastructure and facilities, rebuilt the building itself, and ultimately, put the computer and communications systems back into the destroyed Wedge. On August 15th, 2002, nearly one month ahead of schedule, the first tenants moved back into the newly renovated Wedge.

At the ceremony marking the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, General Richard B. Meyers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanked the Phoenix Project Team by saying, “You’ve restored this great building ahead of schedule, with muscle, determination, marble, cement and Indiana limestone. You did more than repair our windows and walls, you repaired ours souls. In the process, you turned this building into another symbol, one of American resilience.

For me, the events of 9-11 weren’t isolated to just the one day. I can never think of the planes hitting the Towers and the Pentagon, without also thinking of the massive effort over the next year to rebuild the Pentagon. It showed us at our best, and what we are capable of as a country and a people. When we put our minds, and our backs to it, nothing is beyond our reach.

Addendum:

– If you want a good book about the history of the Pentagon, including the renovation and the events surrounding 9-11, I recommend: The Pentagon, by Steve Vogel.

– When I started writing this post, I planned to name all of the folk I knew involved in the Renovation effort and particularly Project Phoenix. There are many and rather than name a few, I decided to name no one. You know who you are. My hat is off to you and your efforts, now and forever.

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Cathy and Katy

My wife, Cathy, has a new love in her life. After 41 years of marriage, I guess this doesn’t surprise me. I think I’m mostly a good husband, but I’m also aware of my shortcomings. There are some ways I’ve just never kept up. After all these years, the love of her life is Katy, another female.

For those not aware, Katy is a German Sport Pony. In height, she’s 14.2 hands, and a horse technically needs to be 14.3 hands. Katy’s a beautiful animal, and Cathy and she are a great match in size, temperament and demeanor.

Cathy and Katy

As I think about Cath’s passion for horses and riding, I’m always a bit amazed. This sport is her lifelong joy and devotion and is entwined with almost all of our time together.

Cathy first received dressage lessons in Germany in 1980. The weekly lessons were in a neighboring town, Klein Ochsenfurt, and lasted almost 3 years. The instructions were in German, and the instructor treated her the same as his German students (you haven’t lived until you’re called a “Dumme Ei” (dumb egg) during a riding lesson).

When we returned to the States in ‘83, she bought her first horse, Tonja. Tonja travelled from Georgia to Ohio with us and Cathy spent the next two years competing with her. In ‘85, we returned to Germany and had to sell Tonja. There were more lessons in Germany, and we finally returned home in ‘89 and settled in Virginia.

In 1990, Cathy bought Arthur, and she resumed competing here in the States. Over the years other horses came in and out of our lives. Tucker, Crescendo, Gwen, Todd, and Sailor all proceeded Katy. Of course, this doesn’t include Red, Arthur’s companion horse, or our two brood mares, Longstocking and Adancer, and their six foals – Larry, Archie, Jazz, Hanny, Queue and Andy. In case you are counting, that’s 17 horses in all.

During the past 39 years of riding, Cathy has broken bones, suffered a concussion, and had multiple cuts and contusions. In 1985, she delivered water to a barn in Ohio when the pipes in the barn were frozen (-25 degrees straight temperature). Here at the farm, she was once locked in a shed by a horse for over an hour until I realized she was missing and went looking for her (don’t ask). Two years ago, she walked through waist high snow to feed the horses (I was unfortunately detained at a business meeting in Key West.) We’ve rescued a horse who busted through the ice on our pond and was in neck-high water, and the police once helped round up horses who escaped our pasture and were wandering on a nearby road.

Nothing is too good for our horses. They get new shoes, or hoof trims every five weeks, and Imelda Marcos has nothing on them. We are on good terms with several different vets in the area, including a chiropractor and an acupuncturist. Our hay is imported twice a year from Pennsylvania, and we are sworn to secrecy on the source. Katy has a custom saddle and new equipment, while Cathy’s boots and breeches are over a decade old.

…..which brings us back to Katy. The thing about competing in horse related events is it truly takes teamwork between horse and rider to do well. Katy may be the best partner ever. Cath’s had her two years now, and this year, they’ve done three shows, with two more scheduled before the end of the season. I’m only a layman when it comes to horses, but even I can see how well they are matched.

The truth is, I’m not jealous of Cathy and Katy. I both envy and love Cathy’s passion for riding and horses and am a bit in awe of her dedication and focus. I’ve never had this level of passion for anything, or anyone, except Cathy herself. I’ve enjoyed many activities over the years, including running, hiking, cooking, bread making, reading, travel, baseball, and collecting wine, but this level of passion? Never. We should all be so lucky.

Addendum:

We currently have four horses at the farm. In addition to Cathy’s pal Katy, both Sailor and Crescendo are retired here. We also have one guest – our neighbor keeps her retired horse, Noggin’, here.

I’m also proud to say that after 20 years of farm life, I am now the morning feeder and waterer for our horses. Unfortunately, I still haven’t learned the art of mucking out stalls and Cathy only employs me in that role in an emergency.

The $34 Shower

In 1956, when I was one year old, mom and dad bought their first home, at 1517 Cherokee Lane in Ottawa. It was in a brand new subdivision called Tomahawk Terrace on the south side of town next to the cornfields. The house was a modest brick ranch with two bedrooms and one bathroom on a corner lot.

A couple weeks after moving in, mom’s folks came for dinner. Dad and grandpa were standing outside admiring the property, when my grandpa said “Well Bill, if you don’t mind my asking, how much did you pay for this house?” Dad answered “Nah, George, I don’t mind telling you. It was $12,000.”

HOOOLEEEY JEEEEEZ!” Grandpa shouted. “Where’d you get that kind of money!?

Dad told me the story years later, probably about the time Cathy and I were buying our own first home in ‘89 (it was a bit more than $12,000). We had a pretty good chuckle over the price, and grandpa’s reaction.

Mom and dad raised me, along with my sisters Roberta and Tanya, in that two bedroom ranch. They refinanced a couple of times along the way and added a garage, and eventually a family room, which served as my room for several years. Around 1970, they closed the garage in, and turned the front half into a bedroom for me.

1517 Cherokee Lane

Eventually the three of us kids married, and moved on, while mom and dad remained on Cherokee Lane. There were wonderful family get togethers over the years. Somehow they’d fit 30 or more people in for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Immediate family, relatives, friends, and neighbors would gather and it was always a great mix of people, love and laughter.

In 1996, dad had a stroke and was in the hospital for a week. Before we could bring him home, we had to make some modifications to the house, including adding a shower to the bathroom.

I’d never really thought about it before. All those years growing up, the five of us shared the one bathroom with a bathtub and no shower. I kept thinking about it, and finally said to mom “Why didn’t you have a shower put in when you built the house? It would have been an easy thing to do.”

She looked at me straight faced and answered “Your father and I talked about it at the time, but putting in a shower was going to add $34 dollars to the price, and we were just afraid it was going to make the mortgage too high.”

….silence…..

And then we both burst out laughing. Between the laughs mom said, “I know it seems silly now, but it’s true. Money was tight and we just didn’t see how we could afford anything more.” It gave us some comic relief during a stressful time.

$34 dollars….. It’s hard to go out to dinner for $34 these days.

Dad passed away nine years ago, and mom died in 2017. Since then, my sister Tanya and our brother-in-law Shawn moved into 1517 Cherokee Lane. They’ve updated the house and made it their own. When I saw it last, I marveled at the changes and upgrades they made. The good news is, they didn’t have to add a shower. That 63 year old house is still going strong.

Addendum: Thanks to Roberta and Tanya for reviewing and adding to this blog. I have the best sisters in the world.

Points….and Mustering out in 1945

Next week is the 74th anniversary of the end of WWII. When the fighting ended in 1945, the GIs all wanted to go home, but it wasn’t quite that simple. You needed “points” to muster out of the service at the end of the war.

….Points…. If you ever watched the “Band of Brothers” HBO series, the last episode focused on “points” and who could get discharged from the army first. Most GIs were more than ready to get out of the Army and go home. Some were overseas for years. Others had only recently deployed. There were combat veterans who saw horrific killing. There were also REMFs (rear echelon MFers) who were never near the front line. ALL wanted to go home.

The Army, while reducing it’s size, needed to balance the needs of the service with the needs of the soldier. They wanted to find a way to balance length of service, combat service, and what sacrifice was made back home. The end result was the development of a point system used to rank soldiers according to four criteria:

1. Months in service since September 1940 = One point for each month

2. Month in service overseas = One point each, in addition to months in service

3. Combat awards (Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldier’s Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal, Purple Heart), or combat campaign participation star = Five points each

4. Dependent child under eighteen years old = Twelve points each

These four criteria were the only ones from which points were calculated. In August of 1945, an enlisted man needed a score of 85 points to be considered for discharge. (This dropped to 75 after Japan’s formal surrender).

…..85 Points….. You can see from the criteria it wasn’t easy to get to that point total, and yet, in August of 1945, Dad’s total was 96 points. This photo of his awards tells the story of his 96 points.

Dad’s medals and ribbons from WWII tell a story

The ribbon on the lower right (yellow ribbon) is the “American Defense Service Medal” established by Roosevelt to recognize those soldiers in the military PRIOR to Pearl Harbor. Dad joined the Army in September of 1940, meaning for the first criteria (total service), he served 59 months by July of ’45, and was awarded 59 points.

Of those 59 months, he was overseas from November 8th, 1942 (The invasion of North Africa) to March of 1944 (when he finished recovering from the wounds he received in Sicily). Those 17 months overseas resulted in an additional 17 points under criteria 2.

The ribbon on the lower left (brown and green) is The European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal. Dad has three stars in the ribbon for the three campaigns he participated in (criteria 3) – Algeria/French Morocco, Tunisia, and Sicily. Those campaigns counted for 5 points each, or 15 points total.

Above the two ribbons is the Purple Heart he received for being shot three times in Sicily. Under criteria 3, he earned an additional 5 points for almost dying.

It’s also interesting to note where he didn’t receive points. At the top of his medals, you see the blue badge with a rifle. This is the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB) and was awarded only to infantrymen who fought in active ground combat while assigned as members of an infantry unit. General Eisenhower once said “he would have traded all his medals for a Combat Infantryman Badge”, which he never obtained. Dad received 0 points for this.

After the war, he was awarded the Bronze Star. If you look at criteria 3, this should have added an additional 5 points, however, because he was already discharged when the paperwork finally went through, he received 0 points.

As to criteria 4, dad was only 16 when he joined the Army, and had no (known ;-)…) dependent children under 18 years of age. This resulted in 0 points.

Total up the points and you get to 96. Because of this, he was discharged after the Japanese announced they would surrender on August 14th, but before they officially surrendered on September 2nd, 1945.

Dad joined the army in 1940 when he was 16 years old. When he was discharged in August of ‘45, he’d spent 5 years in the Army. By the end of those 5 years, he invaded two continents, fought in four countries, was shot three times, and developed malaria. Oh, and he was just 21 years old. I think he paid his dues. It was time to return home.

Addendum:

Points: You can get more information on points at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjusted_Service_Rating_Score

European campaigns: You can get more info on the European Campaigns counting towards points at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/European–African–Middle_Eastern_Campaign_Medal

Soft Shell Crabs

We invited our neighbor Bill over for dinner last night. We were looking forward to catching up, and hearing about his recent travels. The menu? Soft shell crabs and sweet corn. It’s summer and we are on the Eastern Shore of Mary’s Land. What could be more perfect for July?

The recipe is from our neighbor on Tilghman, Captain Stanley, who was a skipjack captain. If a skipjack captain gives you a seafood recipe, you damned well better pay attention and write it down. Captain Stanley is in his 80s. He’s spent the better part of his life as a waterman on the Bay, crabbing, and oystering. The recipe is totally minimalist, but that makes perfect sense. As Captain Stanley says, “why add anything else and take away from the flavor?” He worked on the Bay for over 60 years and knows a thing or two about crabs. I’m going to listen.

Captain Stanley Larrimore

Cathy added to the meal by sautéing the sweet corn in butter and olive oil with some onion and jalapeño. The final dish? A spread of arugula topped with the sweet corn sauté. Put the soft shells on the top of the corn, with a bit of tarter sauce on the side. We served them with a Pinot, but beer would also go with the dish pretty well.

Soft shells sitting on a bed of sweet corn and arugula

Captain Stanley’s Soft Shell Crabs:

Cleaning the soft shells:

1. Cut off face

2. Take off apron (male or female) (and any inner extension that comes with it).

3. Turn over. Lift top edge and scrape out the “dead men” on each side (the lungs). Put edge back down

4. If female, flip back over. Make slits on the two sides of the craps and take out the two white, dime sized objects (the ovaries). Some people leave the ovaries in.

To cook:

1. After cleaning, salt and pepper them.

2. Sauté in butter (use ghee or clarified butter if you can; if not, combination of oil and butter) about 3, 3 1/2 min per side.

3. Pull off and eat.

4. Have a little tartar sauce if you want.

Sautéing soft shells

Addendum:

I borrowed the phrase “Mary’s Land” from Mary Chapin Carpenter, who wrote a song about Maryland with that same title. It’s a great tribute to the state of Maryland.

If you want to learn more about Captain Stanley, or watermen in general, I highly recommend the Book Skipjack by Christopher White. It’s a wonderful book about a lifestyle that is slowly dying away here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Landing on the Moon

There are certain events that occur and even years later, we remember where we were when they happened. Kennedy’s assassination. The Challenger Disaster. 9/11. They are often catastrophic events, but not always. When man first landed on the moon 50 years ago, on July 20th, 1969, I know exactly where I was – The Boy Scout National Jamboree in Idaho.

The National Jamboree was held at Farragut State Park, Idaho, from July 16 to 22, and had over 34,000 attendees. I was lucky to be one of them, as my folks had originally said no to attending. Then Farrell Brooks, our Scoutmaster, had a private conversation with mom and dad, and they changed their minds – I could go, but had to pay for some of the trip myself.

On July 12th, we boarded a special train in Chicago for the trip west. The train was for Scouts only, and there were approximately 600 of us on it (it must have been a zoo….;-)….). The trip took a couple of days and included a one day stopover at Glacier National Park.

Arriving at Farragut State Part we built our camp. We put up our tents, lashed together an entrance and perimeter fence, built fire pits, and nailed together our picnic tables and cooking stations.

At the Jamboree, in front of our Troops’ Campsite

In addition to all of the activities going on at the Jamboree, I distinctly remember excitement building about the upcoming moon landing. Both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the two men who would walk on the moon, were former Boy Scouts and Armstrong had obtained Eagle, Scouting’s highest rank.

On July 18, while flying toward the moon, Armstrong greeted us Scouts via Radio: “I’d like to say hello to all my fellow Scouts and Scouters at Farragut State Park in Idaho having a National Jamboree there this week and Apollo’s 11 would like to send them best wishes.” We couldn’t believe it when we heard about the broadcast. Here he was, going to the moon, and he took time to reach out to us. The transcript of the broadcast made our Jamboree newspaper the next day.

From the July 19th Jamboree Newspaper

Then came the big day, July 20th. We knew the landing was in the afternoon, however, weren’t exactly sure when. Of course we didn’t have any TV to follow Walter Cronkite and the coverage of the landing, but one of the older scouts had a radio. After lunch, several us stayed in camp and sat at the picnic table listening to the radio. We followed the conversations between Aldrin and Armstrong as they neared the moon, and Mission Control back on earth. I think with no visual for us, it was perhaps even scarier. At 2:17PM local time, Armstrong announced Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.”

Six hours later, Armstrong and Aldrin both walked on the moon. Without TVs, we didn’t see any of the live footage shown on network television. However, on the following evening, July 21st, all of us Scouts marched to the amphitheater used for the opening and closing events during the Jamboree. That evening they had erected huge white screens. Tapes of the lunar landing, along with the footage of Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon were projected on the screens. There were 34,000 of us there, but I bet you could hear a pin drop as we watched history unfolding.

The Jamboree ended the next day and the following day we returned by train to Illinois. I don’t remember anything of the trip home. Three weeks later, Woodstock happened, and a few weeks after that, I started my freshman year in high school.

Over the years, I’ve forgotten most of what happened at the Jamboree, except for a few scattered memories. Sitting at the picnic table, listening to the landing on the moon? It’s clear as a bell in my mind.

Addendum:

1. Later in life, in addition to the Boy Scouts, I had another connection with Apollo 11. Both Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were West Point graduates. Aldrin graduated in ‘51 and Collins in ‘52. Neil Armstrong was a civilian. One of the reasons Armstrong was the first to set foot on the moon (in addition to acting as the Commander), was NASA wanted to make sure the first person to set foot on the moon was a Civilian and not a member of the Armed Forces.

2. Mom saved almost everything from when I was a kid, and then returned things to me over the years. I still have my Jamboree patches, coffee mug, special badges and the daily newspapers they gave us while there. I also still have the Look Magazine Special Edition issued the week after the moon landing.

Farrell and Don

50 years ago in June of 1969, I was awarded the Boy Scout’s highest rank, Eagle Scout. I was thinking about this recently when Cath and I were attending the Eagle Court of Honor for Mark, the son of good friends of ours. At the presentation, I thought about Scouting, both now, and when I was a boy. I also thought about two important mentors from my youth.

On one level, time hasn’t been kind to the Boy Scouts. They were recently again in the news for cases of possible sexual child abuse. A couple of years ago, after probably taking too long to decide, they opened Scouting to gay youth and leaders, and a year later, transgender youth. Recently, they allowed girls to join. All of these activities have raised passions both supporting and disparaging the Boy Scouts and I sometimes wonder if scouting will survive. I for one, hope it does.

The Boy Scouts of my youth with Troop 45 were great fun, and taught me skills I continue to use. The camping trips, hikes and summer camps provided memories my friends and I still talk and laugh about. We learned about camping, cooking, knots, nature, first aid, and lifesaving among other “hard” skills. Perhaps more importantly, the Scout Oath and Scout Law taught us (or reinforced in us) softer skills. Learning about doing your duty, helping others, and respecting yourself are not bad things to absorb at a young age. Gaining those hard skills and internalizing the softer skills led to my Eagle award in 1969, at the age of 14.

Eagle ceremony in June of 1969

One of the greatest gifts Scouting gave me was two of my first mentors, Farrell Brooks and Don Willy. They were our Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster. There were other adults involved in our troop, although looking back, it’s easy to see that many were involved either to watch out for their own son, or to fulfill some leadership longing in their personal life. The kind of adult who liked to be in charge of a bunch of kids. We never paid much attention to those guys. As a matter of fact, we tried to figure out ways of outsmarting them, or doing things behind their backs.

Farrell and Don were different. They practiced what today I would call “quiet leadership”. They let us boys run things as much as possible, with the occasional course correction. They set good examples of how to act as a man and we noticed. They didn’t berate us, chastise us, belittle us, or make us feel like kids. Instead, they encouraged, challenged, and listened to us.

In my youth, I don’t think I knew what a mentor was, but I know I respected Farrell and Don and listened to them. As I became an adult, their example formed a part of the bedrock of my own leadership skills that served me in the Army and later in business. Both Don and Farrell passed away several years ago. I wish I had just one more evening as an adult sitting around a campfire with them. I’d enjoy picking their brains about a thing or two. I’d give a lot for that night….

We congratulated Mark after his Eagle ceremony. He’s a fine young man and I believe he will do well in life. Listening to his current and former Scoutmasters speak at the ceremony gives me faith there are still leaders in the Scouts helping boys become good adults. I hope as Mark gets older he reflects back on the mentoring he received and find it a source of strength. I know I have.

Addendum:

1. In the included photo of the four of us receiving our Eagle Scout awards, I’m the only one still alive. Ken, Randy, and Larry all passed away too soon, at relatively young ages. When I look at the picture, I smile remembering the evening, but I’m also sad as I reflect on each of their deaths. The possibilities, and the promises of life seemed endless in 1969, and yet, here I am the last one alive.

2. Since the 1920s, the Boy Scouts have compiled “ineligible files,” listing adult volunteers considered to pose a risk of child molestation. About 5,000 of these files were made public as a result of court action; another 2,000 or so remain confidential. The Scouts say when a BSA volunteer is added to the database for suspected abuse, “they are reported to law enforcement, removed entirely from any Scouting program and prohibited from re-joining anywhere.”

Boy Scout Oath

On my honor, I will do my best

To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.