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Once An Eagle Always An Eagle... what about the other ranks?

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VigilNavyCPO wrote: "On the flip side of rank advancement, my troop allows older Scouts to stay active in the Troop if they cannot make Eagle due to the time requirements."


On the flippity-flip side, I'd hate to meet a troop that didn't allow Scouts to remain active just because they couldn't make Eagle. There's no dishonor in aging out at any of the other ranks. Achieving Eagle is not the goal of the Scouting program.

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FYI, Life (hence the name) was once the highest rank one could achieve in Scouts.


Yes, advancement is only one of the eight methods and the methods are all "equal."


Think of it in this fashion, what are the aims of Scouting? Can they be achieved without reaching Eagle?

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I was an Eagle Scout. I was an Eagle Scout for about 4 months. I am no longer an Eagle Scout. See where I'm going here? I am now an adult who earned the Eagle Scout rank when I was a Scout. As an adult, I can no longer be a Scout. I can be a Scouter, but not a Scout, and there is no such thing as an Eagle Scouter.


I've always felt that the "Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout" meme was sloppy phrasing of an intent to remind Eagle Scouts that they have a greater responsibility to uphold the principles of the BSA as they move through life, and then mostly because of the perception of the Eagle Scout rank that pervades American life, a perception not shared with the equally impressive Girl Scout Gold Award.


There are those who earned the Eagle Scout rank that have not upheld the principles of the BSA. One that comes to mind is Russell Henderson, who pleaded guilty to beating and essentially crucifying on a wire fence a young man in Wyoming. Still an Eagle Scout? I wouldn't say so.


On the other hand, I AM a Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow. This honor does persist through adulthood (as long as one maintains their membership in their lodge). In many ways, I feel much more honored, and honor-bound by the Vigil Honor. It wasn't something I worked toward, or aspired to. It was bestowed upon me by my peers and was not expected. I have friends who are Vigil Honor members who have bemoaned not getting the Eagle Scout rank - but I always remind them that Vigil is rarer than Eagle (the year I was inducted, only 7 youths from my Lodge were inducted - there were a couple hundred Scouts earning Eagle Scout that year), and while not an accomplishment the way Eagle is, Vigil is a recognition of one's true spirit.



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As an Eagle, I've never agreed with the all/nothing aspect of "once an Eagle...."


The guys who stopped at Life or the other ranks are still brothers in Scouting. And had circumstances been a little different for them, many would have pressed on to Eagle.


Many Scouters who didn't make Eagle are superb leaders, and are great citizens in their community...I have the utmost respect for them.


In our quest to give status to Eagle, over the years I think that well-meaning folks have added extra touches to the Eagle rank, like the mantra in question, or the charge...where did that come from? Tradition, I think.


Is there any official scout literature that speaks to what is done or said at an Eagle ceremony? I'll be willing to bet there is little, if any.


Eagle is a fine accomplishment but like any laurel, it can't be rested upon.




(This message has been edited by desertrat77)

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I will simply say:


There is a knot for the AOL, Eagle Scout, and Venturing Silver.


There is not a knot for the Webelo award, Life, or Venturing Gold.


I am proud to have been a youth member of the Boy Scouts of America. I am proud I was selected as a youth member and remain this day a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow.


My rank in Boy Scouting? I am a former youth member :)

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Thank you, John, and thank you especially, Calico. It's not often that one can say, "I was an Eagle," without somebody jumping in to correct the tense. I think that too often Eagle becomes the goal, and thereby the "Aim" of Scouting. Good comments all around.

Thanks, BDPT00

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So because there is not a permanent recognition for a rank is the reasoning you are using? So since I was a Scoutmaster & I have received the Scoutmaster Award, I'm always a Scoutmaster? Is that how it works?

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John-in-KC said

There is not a knot for the Webelo award


Actually if you are refering to the old Weblos Award that became the AOL, then you are authorized to wear the AOL knot. Sorry don't have the policy in front of me, but it's out there. Possibly the SCOUTING magazine article has the info.


BUT if you are referring to the current Weblos badge, that replaced the old lion badge, then you are correct.

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The latter. My Cub shirt (Pack 194, Woodland Hills), still has my Lion award. My youth shirt has my AOL and my old, no border Life patch, and Troop 110, Reseda.


They're memories. :) I wear an AOL knot.




Our adult knots show to others the resources we can be. The Scoutmasters/Commissioner's Key (green/white) is supposed to indicate we know a little something about the program. Our youth knots identify that we achieved the highest level in our programs (AOL, Eagle, Silver). Does that make sense?

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"FYI, Life (hence the name) was once the highest rank one could achieve in Scouts."

Where did you get that info?

I think you might be mistaken, because until the mid 20s "Star" out ranked "Life" in the "Honor Ranks" (with Eagle being the highest)After earning First Class, then the highest actual rank.

If you look at photos of boys in uniform in the 20s, they had their First Class badge on their sleeve, even after they earned their Eagle.

The only thing that predates Eagle as the highest rank was the proposal that the highest rank was to be named a Wolf Scout, but that was dropped in favor of the Eagle. This goes back to the beginning of BSA.

I don't have access to my old Handbooks right now, maybe someone can provide the actual dates of what I am referring to. Or if I am mistaken, provide the correct information.



John, good point.




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I left Scouting in 1971 as a Star Scout when I was 14, when I hung up the uniform and my membership ran out my rank also expired. The Scout Law and Oath though stayed with me. They have helped me be a success. I tell people that I left as a Star Scout.


A colleague from work who made Eagle in 1969 never heard of Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle until recently when his son made Eagle a few years ago. He speculated that this is a marketing/fund raising technique.

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I am glad to hear you made it all the way to Star and that the Oath and Law have had an impact on your life. Let me add that as a Sea Explorer, I made it all the way to Able. Though I wish I had followed through with my Quartermaster, I am proud of my accomplishment.


I first heard the "once an eagle" spiel when I was a scout, from an adult leaders in our troop. I do not know how old he was, but I would guess he was near 50, and he spoke of his experience in the past tense, implying that it was when he was a young adult. That would suggest to me that this expression (or one like it) has been around for at least 50 years. Suffice it to say that this is not a new marketing technique.

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Being one who earned the Eagle Rank I always felt the statement "Once an Eagle always an Eagle" meant that the rank was an accomplishment that could not be taken away. The other end of that particular stick is that an Eagle has a responsibility to live up to the bar the Eagle has set for himself in fulfilling the requirements of the rank. (See Eagle Charge)


Now I have been known to say that ignorance is bliss. Once a boy or man recites the Scout Oath and Law he now has the knowledge of what it is to be a good citizen and has a responsibility to himself and others to respect that knowledge and live by those words. Even if he drops out of the program that knowledge does not go away.


Taking off the uniform does not take away the knowledge or the responsibility. Being a Tenderfoot for life does not take away that knowledge. So to me the highest rank a Scout reaches is of little consequence as long as he lives by the oath and law.


Once last point is that advancement is 1 of 8 Methods of Scouting. Just because a Scout has, for himself, finished that path does not mean that he is done with that method of Scouting because he can always help others along that path.

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