Veterans and Scouting

by Lynn Watson

Over the past month, I had the honor of speaking with many Veterans who were also Scouts in their youth.  Working at the Coatesville VA Medical Center and having a husband who is highly involved in the program, I wanted to learn more about the intersection of Scouting and military service.

I was fortunate to attend the recent Order of the Arrow Annual Banquet for Octoraro Lodge 22 where I chatted with several of these Veterans. Their responses to questions I asked – how Scouting impacted their lives, how it prepared them for future endeavors, and how it shaped their life experiences – were heart-warming. Many of these Scouters have decades of time devoted to the program. One Veteran, Ernie Heegard, who sadly passed away last month, informed me he has been involved in Scouting for 78 years!

I also had the opportunity of speaking with Scouters who are Veterans at our Coatesville and Wilmington VA Medical Center Community Living Centers. Many of the individuals I spoke with mentioned leadership as one of the key skills Scouting taught them. Teamwork and problem-solving skills training were also beneficial. The building of life-long friendships was one of the frequent comments from the respondents. One Veteran told me that the positive impact Scouting had on him was teaching him discipline, fostering attention to detail skills, and developing friendships with others. It is a good experience for learning life skills when you participate in Scouts.

One of the questions I asked was “What was your favorite memory as a Scouting youth?” The responses ranged from “doing the OA tap out ceremony”, “being dropped off at Horseshoe Camp as a two-week camper. It was life finding the secret garden! I loved it, and I was hooked!”  to one response from a Scout who grew up in Germany stating “the cultural/international program jamborees, visiting other countries, and teaming up with Boy Scouts from other nations.” One Veteran stated, “Scouting changed my life and made me want to become a teacher!” Another jokingly responded, “Watching a skunk spray my father in a tent when we were camping. It was the funniest thing to watch!”

Many of the Veterans reminded me that it is important for Scouts to stay involved with the program. They stated you only get out of it what you put into it. They feel the program is very rewarding, and it was rewarding to me to speak with them.