TOWNSEND — Eagle — the highest honor in Scouting — is one that only a small fraction of those who don the uniform and earn the merit badges ever achieve.
On Saturday, Aug. 9, three Troop 81 Scouts officially reached that pinnacle and were honored by their family, friends and fellow Scouts, young and old, at St. John’s Church.
Michael Virostko, Gerard Schell and Patrick Coit were each lauded in turn, including the reading of three official proclamations from Bob Plamondon — vice chairman of the Board of Selectmen — naming the day “Michael Virostko/Gerard Schell/Patrick Coit Day” to commemorate the occasion in the town annals.
The program began shortly after 1 p.m. in the church. Following brief opening remarks by Master of Ceremonies Charles Kelly, who spoke of the boys’ “ascent up Eagle Mountain,” Reverend Shawn Allen delivered an invocation and the honor guard marched the colors — the American flag and the BSA flag — to the stage and the “challenge” began.
Allen cited a history of mutual benefices through the parish’s connection with Troop 81 and praised the three new Eagles for leading “lives of good leadership” in their Scouting careers.
“This is the culmination of determination,” Kelly said when he returned to the podium to present each candidate for final approval. The process involved have their right to be called an Eagle Scout challenged by a Life Scout (the next rank down), a Tenderfoot Scout (the first rank attained in Scouting), and an existing Eagle Scout, each asking for proof that the boys had met not only the material requirements, but also those of the body, mind and attitude.
Each challenger was satisfied by the answers he received and the boys were asked to reaffirm their faith in Scouting by reciting the Eagle Pledge and promising to live by it the rest of their days. The boys agreed and were officially presented with their Eagle pins to a loud standing ovation.
Virostko, Coit, and Schell each addressed the audience afterward, speaking of the things in life they had learned and achieved through Scouting and presenting a “mentor pin” to someone without whom they did not feel they would have reached this point.
Virostko thanked many people individually and congratulated his new Eagle brethren, speaking of good memories including kayaking trips and Scout Camp. He awarded his mentor pin to his father, Michael Senior, for being there to help him “every single day,” and for taking “so much time off work” to assist in his son’s Eagle project: The painting of the Townsend Ecumenical Outreach building.
Coit informed the crowd that he had told his mother, Darleen, nine years ago that he would be an Eagle Scout, but still thanked his mother and his sisters for pushing him.
“It’s been a long trail,” he said before presenting his mentor pin to Henry Albro, a man he said was instrumental in his journey along that trail. For his project, Coit constructed a memorial flag pole for St. John’s.
Schell spoke wistfully of his memories with the Scouts, adding that it will be sad to leave it all behind now that he has achieved the final summit. He reflected on the challenges he’d faced along the way, including personal and physical challenges met and resolved on “almost every Scouting trip.” In particular, he recalled the troop’s trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.
Schell credited Scoutmaster Bruce Williams as a major guiding force in his journey and presented him with his mentor pin. Schell restored Father Mealy Hall, the church’s auxiliary building, for his Eagle project.
Each new Eagle Scout then pinned his mother with a special pin before Plamondon took the podium to read the proclamations and congratulate the three boys. Rep. Robert Hargraves. R-Groton, then came to the podium to honor the trio.
He told them that their achievement, on a résumé, will speak volumes and all other accomplishments now and in the future, including citations or degrees, will be less impressive by comparison.
“All things being equal, an Eagle Scout will get the jump,” he said. His gift to each was a new Boston Red Sox hat, purchased from a Groton hardware store run by Eagle Scouts.
He ceded the podium to Kelly, who read letters of congratulations from President Bush and first lady Laura Bush, presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray to Coit, and from Mark Anderson, program director at Philmont, for Schell.
The three boys then presented their gifts to the troop and to Williams: Three new stainless steel coolers for the quartermaster to use and, for Williams, a book of photos of all those Troop 81 Scouts who had attained the rank of Eagle since he began as scoutmaster, including updates on each scout, with a dedication to the scoutmaster in the front. Williams was touched by the gesture and stared at the book as the crowd stood and applauded again.