This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Medal of Honor being signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. As part of the celebration of what the Medal of Honor represents, the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation invited the Boy Scouts of America and Boys’ Life magazine to nominate an outstanding Scout for the prestigious American Spirit Award.
This award recognizes one or more individuals who demonstrate extraordinary skill, professionalism and a spirit of excellence in a challenging situation. In response, the editorial staff of Boys’ Life conducted a national search of Scouts and their achievements and selected four Scouts as finalists. After a nationwide vote (see “About the Voting,” below right), Life Scout Jack Pape of Omaha, Neb., was named recipient of the award. Read on for details on Jack and the other finalists.
The Four Nominees
Giving Dignity to Military Chaplains
Preserving the Environment
Honoring Fallen Heroes
Courageous Actions in the Face of Tragedies
For more information on each entry, please scroll below.
TJ Ellwein: Giving Dignity to Military Chaplains
Baltimore Area Council
TJ, a 19-year-old Eagle Scout from Troop 1437 in Davidsonville, Md., knew he wanted to clean up a veterans’ cemetery for his Eagle project. He just didn’t know which one.
Turns out Chaplain’s Hill, a section of Arlington Memorial Cemetery reserved for military chaplains and chaplain’s assistants, was the perfect spot.
TJ’s mother is a chaplain’s assistant and oversees all of the chaplain’s assistants in the Army National Guard. And TJ himself was the chaplain’s aide in his Boy Scout troop.
For TJ, this project was personal.
“I chose it because I want to show respect for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for the cost of our freedom,” TJ says. “It’s a way to give dignity to the chaplains and chaplain’s assistants by paying tribute to those who brought the word of God to many other servicemen and women.”
After more than 400 hours of fundraising, paperwork and preparation, the 400 headstones on Chaplain’s Hill got a much overdue cleaning. A few months later, TJ completed his project when he assembled a brochure rack for the cemetery’s visitor center.
TJ says he would like to someday become a physical therapist to help wounded soldiers.
Brad Garr: Preserving the Environment
Grand Canyon Council
Brad, a 14-year-old Eagle Scout from Troop 440 in Scottsdale, Ariz., has been a very busy young man.
In addition to recently completing his Eagle Scout project, Brad has earned more than 70 merit badges. He received the William T. Hornaday Silver Medal for his leadership work on four huge conservation projects, three of which benefited nearby McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
“I wanted to help the environment and learn more about the environment,” Brad says. “We need to protect the environment we have now, and we need to try to reverse the damage we’ve already done.”
When he was 12, Brad earned a Medal of Heroism for pulling an injured woman out of a fiery car wreck. When he was 13, he earned a Medal of Merit for assisting fellow Scouts at another automobile accident scene.
Brad says he plans on attending the U.S. Naval Academy and hopes to eventually become an officer and naval aviator.
Jacob Netzel: Honoring Fallen Heroes
Jacob, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout from Troop 40 in Fayetteville, N.C., knew his Eagle project could take a long, long time.
But nothing could stop Jacob, who spent four years raising $40,000 and then constructed a memorial for fallen soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group headquartered at nearby Fort Bragg.
“I was very optimistic in the beginning,” Jacob says. “Then I got discouraged when the cash was coming in slow. But it never failed: If we had a slow month, we’d get a big donation from somebody and things would pick up.”
In addition to the fund raising, Jacob had to get approval from seemingly everyone in the U.S. military, including the Secretary of the Army and the three-star general and commander of the installation where the memorial would be built.
The end result was 28 headstones honoring the memory of 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.
Jacob says he hopes to someday become an engineer.
Jack Pape: Courageous Actions in the Face of Tragedies
Jack, a 17-year-old Life Scout from Troop 374 in Omaha, Neb., was a troop guide at Little Sioux Scout Ranch on June 11, 2008, when a tornado ripped through the camp, destroying the stone building where dozens of Scouts had taken shelter.
Jack and many other Scouts jumped into action, providing first aid for the injured.
“I remember standing up after the tornado had passed and looking around,” Jack says. “And then, I didn’t think about anything. I just did what I had to do.”
Four Boy Scouts were killed, but it could have been worse if not for the efforts of Jack and the others.
Just one year later, while on vacation with his parents in Iowa, a group of teens ran up to Jack and told him that a young boy had been pulled from a swimming pool. Once again, Jack didn’t think; he ran to the boy and began CPR.
“Everybody should get certified for CPR,” he says. “You never know if it’s going to be a friend or loved one that you have to use it on.”
Jack, who earned the Boy Scout Honor Medal and the American Red Cross Certificate of Merit for his actions, says he plans to become a high school teacher.