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Lucas Pepper and Steven Willman, two members of local Boy Scout Troop 151, received their Eagle Scout badges, the highest rank attainable in scouting, Feb. 26 at a ceremony at Harvestland Community Church near Hodgenville.
“It was a great feeling,” said Pepper, 18, a senior at LaRue County High School. “I was very proud to have received it, especially as I finished just under the wire as a person has to be under 18.”
Since its introduction in 1911, more than two million young men have earned the Eagle Scout rank including famous ones ranging from astronaut Neil Armstrong to former U.S. President Gerald Ford. The title of Eagle Scout is held for life.
In 2010, only 5 percent of all Boy Scouts earned the Eagle Scout rank. Requirements include earning at least 21 merit badges and demonstrating Scout spirit through the Boy Scout oath and law, service and leadership.
“Scouting provides much more than learning how to tie knots,” said Troop 151 scoutmaster Scott Willman, Steven’s father. “It provides leadership training and many other skills in addition to fellowship where the scouts learn to work as a team as they become lifelong friends.”
He cited as an example of skills learned the life-saving emergency first aid his twin sons Steven and Jason (who is working toward his Eagle Scout badge) provided for their grandfather.
“My dad fell off a tractor that was pulling a bush hog which cut his leg severely,” Willman said. His sons happened to be at their grandfather’s place just after the accident occurred. Because of their quick action in stopping the bleeding, the grandfather survived.
Being a scout has also proved beneficial to Pepper.
“Scouting has helped me in many ways,” Pepper said. “I have better leadership skills as part of its requirements and the program also instills high moral values.”
The road to Eagle Scout is long and requires patience and perseverance most of all, according to Willman, a Louisville native who moved to LaRue County in 1992.
“The hardest part to getting the Eagle badge is the red tape – the documentation required to go through the various steps,” he said. “The council, which must approve each project, works as fast as they can, but everybody’s so busy, it just takes time.”
Requirements include an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads and manages.
Pepper chose gardening as his service project.
“My family has always grown a garden so I thought the project would fit right in,” the Hodgenville resident said. His aunt, who owns a greenhouse, provided most of his vegetables and others donated money to help defray costs such as fertilizer and seeds.
“I got our scout troop to help till the soil and to plant,” he said. “It was new to a lot of them, and while it provided leadership experience for me, it was a learning experience for them.”
His garden yielded more than 250 pounds of produce which he donated to Warm Blessings Soup Kitchen in Elizabethtown.
Steven Willman, 17, chose ridding the environment of litter as his service project.
“There are hundreds of illegal dumpsites in LaRue County and surrounding area, which are not only horrible looking, but also hazardous to wildlife and us in ways that we cannot imagine,” Willman said.
Working with LaRue County Renaissance Recycling coordinator Jill Gray, the Buffalo resident gathered about 20 members, mainly from his troop, to rid forest hillsides of hundreds of pounds of trash, mostly plastic and metal.
The LCHS junior collected aluminum cans and other recyclables and received funding from local businesses to feed his volunteers during cleanup.
For their efforts, Eagle Scouts are presented with a medal and a badge that recognize their accomplishments. But, more than that, they possess knowledge and skills that will be useful the remainder of their lives.
“If a person will follow the Scout Law to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent, he will be a good, solid man,” Pepper said.