Mr. Wayne Brock, Chief Scout Executive
Dear Mr. Brock,
My name is Larry Frank, and I am a United Methodist Pastor in Illinois. People in my circles talk about being a “cradle” Methodist/Catholic/Lutheran, etc. when referring to their religious rearing. I can say with confidence that I am a “cradle” Scout. I don’t recall there ever being a conversation with my parents where they asked if I wanted to join scouts, it just happened. I was engrained in Pack 52, Mount Olive, Illinois.
I remember the bright orange shirt that my mother had to iron paw prints on as I completed the tasks of a Tiger Cub. I remember graduating from the orange t-shirt to a blue uniform as I became a Bobcat in the Cub Scouts. With this came some great times. I remember the care my Dad and I put in to my pinewood derby box car, making several trips to the post office down the street to have them weigh the car to make sure it was just right. In the beginning, the pinewood derbies, the rain-rutter regattas were all about the look of the car or boat. We all wanted to win “best in show”. As I grew older and became a wolf scout, a bear, a Webelos; it became about proper aerodynamics for maximum speed. Best in show was for the “little kids”….I wanted to WIN!
I remember the fun campouts we had as cub scouts. Once a year we went to the Lincoln Pilgrimage in Springfield, IL. We camped in New Salem State Park. As a part of the weekend there was a 21 mile hike. Each weekend concluded with a Sunday morning memorial service at Lincoln’s tomb and a grand march of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts from all over the state parading from Lincoln’s Tomb to the State Capitol building (as if we needed to walk any more than we had the day before).
Our leaders (my Dad was the scout master of the pack) tried to make our private pack campouts fun. I will never forget the sheer excitement we all experienced when we saw a lit canoe coming across the Old Lake in Mount Olive with 3 men dressed as Native American’s in tow. My excitement turned to a bit of embarrassment when I saw that my Dad was the “Chief”; but they were doing their best to make the camping experience fun for us boys.
I remember the ceremony at my final “blue and gold” banquet when I received my arrow of light and was granted permission to join Troop 52 as a tenderfoot Boy Scout. I traded in my blue uniform, for the tan “class-A”. I was elected the first patrol leader of our group and we named our patrol “the screaming monkeys.” We did everything we could to make sure we went to summer camp and other exciting opportunities. I sold popcorn like a bandit, like every good scout. Our big fundraiser, though, was selling fresh lemonade shake-ups at our town’s summer carnival. Being the Scoutmaster’s Son, I learned how to cut lemons in advance (which taught me to waste NOTHING because I did NOT want to cut any more). I can still smell Dad’s truck when we’d both climb in after shaking lemonade all night (there’s nothing like that sticky, lemony, sugary feeling to drive even the most unhygienic pre-teen to beg for a shower). We used our funds to participate in the Klondike Derby at Camp Warren Levis, to attend summer camp at Camp Bunn, Rhodes France Scout Reservation, and perhaps one other place. It was on these trips that I learned the basic tools of leadership that I use every day as a Pastor. It was at Camp Bunn that I was given the first opportunity to preach a sermon outside of my home Church. It was on those trips that I made memories to last a lifetime; like when one guy said he’d stay up and watch the fire but fell asleep before the rest of us….needless to say we had some fun that included Peanut Butter on his boots. It was on one camping trip where the combination of a poorly cooked breakfast casserole and a lack of modern facilities taught us all the proper method of digging and utilizing a latrine. It was in Scouts that I learned the Scout Oath and Law, which I’m STILL doing my best to live up to.
It was around many campfires and troop meetings that I learned that being an Eagle Scout would help my future and it was a scouting rank that would last me a lifetime. I carried out my Eagle Project at my Church Camp; we painted the large outdoor chapel that was in terrible need of a fresh coat of paint. I remember how nervous I was sitting before my Eagle Board of Review. I remember the deep sigh of relief when they stood to shake my hand because I had been granted the rank of Eagle Scout just like my Father before me. I remember my excitement at my Eagle Court of Honor…and the distinct privilege it was to receive that award with two guys that I had journeyed through Scouting with from almost the beginning. I remember how elated I was to receive a commendation from Robert Mueller, the Director of the FBI.
These are memories that I carry with me every single day. I have always been proud to be an Eagle Scout and hope to one day have a Son with which I may share Scouting.
I say all this to note that I have been watching the developing story regarding the vote to lift the BSA ban on openly gay leaders and scouts with keen interest. I have seen the reports of parents threatening to withdraw their boys if the ban is lifted….their religious beliefs and other convictions lead them to believe this is the only response they can have. If the ban is lifted, I also fear that many Charter Organizations with withdraw their necessary support of thousands of troops and packs.
I have seen gay Eagle Scouts and Eagle Scout Allies returning their Eagle Awards as a protest against the ban. This hurts me as well, as these Eagles are my brothers bound together with me in a sacred brotherhood that so few scouts ever experience. I read, hear, and in many ways feel their hurt over the ban.
I am a conflicted Eagle Scout.
I understand that a vote is currently underway and an announcement regarding whether the ban will stay intact or not will be revealed tomorrow. I fear that no matter what the decision is, there will be backlash that will ultimately hurt Scouting. I am not writing this to plead for a decision one way or the other, I’m sure the decision has already been made and who am I to influence the executive committee? I write to remind you that no matter what the decision, no matter what the backlash….I still stand by the principles of the Scout Oath and Law; as do many others. I still support the work of scouting in this country that in so many ways taught me how to be a better man who loves God and country. No matter what happens and no matter who abandons scouting because of the decision…..I AM STILL PROUD TO BE AN EAGLE SCOUT!
I am praying for you and the Executive Scouting Committee. I do not envy the position you are in and pray God’s peace over you no matter what you decide. Somehow, in the midst of all this turmoil, I pray that there will be a rebirth of Scouting in this country.
Yours in Scouting,
Rev. Larry D. Frank
Eagle Scout, Troop 52