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Death shouldn't automatically make you an eagle.

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Call me a heartless bastard, but I think I can talk on this subject and be opinionated about it.

I am an Eagle Scout, and have counseled more scouts working on their eagle than I can think of. The scout troop that I grew up in now has over 60 Eagles since it's start 35 years ago in 1974. I was Eagle number six from that troop. For hundreds of kids who were in this troop, only very few made it to Eagle.

(Below: This is my old troop in more recent times. They are still my kids, and I am proud of them.)

Earlier this month a scout troop was hiking in Big Cypress National Preserve. It was the weekend of May 9th. There was no rain, and the drought index was almost as high as it can go. The temperatures in the afternoon were in the upper 90s, and I saw the thermometer peak at about 102. The month of May before the afternoon rains start in Florida can be absolutely miserable.

(Below: Typical hiking conditions in Big Cypress. Except it was dry, and you have all the limestone cap rock to walk over, and that is very uncomfortable.)

One of the 17-year old scouts with this troop hiking in big cypress collapsed and died from what looks like heat stroke or heat exhaustion. The tragic thing is that this should not have happened. I blame to troop for letting this very tragic event happened, especially the negligence of the leaders. They should have known better.

In Florida, every scout should be familiar with heat injuries, and it is required as part of first aid. They should know enough not to have a strenuous hike during times of extreme heat like it was that day. This lad died trying to hike 20 miles in one day, and along the Florida Trail that is well known as the most difficult and extreme portion of the trail. I know of other cases where the National Park Service has had to go out and rescue people who have called for help on that trail after giving up after only 4 or 6 miles.

In today's paper, they had an article where the troop wants to award the kid his Eagle Scout award posthumously. I am sorry, but I do not agree with awarding this posthumously. And like I said at the beginning, I am an Eagle Scout, and know what it represents.

You either finish it, or you don't. This kid did not finish all the requirements for Eagle. He was very close, but did not conduct and complete his service project yet. If you don't finish the requirements, you don't get the award. I know many kids who went this far and didn't complete their project--they didn't get Eagle. Are they going to posthumously award him the hiking merit badge that he didn't complete and died trying to fulfill the requirements?

If someone dies while running an iron man triathlon, is a gold medal awarded posthumously?

I know another scout who died working on a requirement for a merit badge. He was not awarded the pioneering merit badge posthumously.

The Eagle award is an award for the living. When I read the "Voice of the Eagle" at many Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremonies, one line I said is, "This is not an award for what you have done, but for what you will do. More is now expected of you." This award is an indication of someone who will do great things.

I am sorry that this promising young man had to die in these circumstances, which should not have happened. There are probably a lot of emotions involved in the push to give him the Eagle. I know that they are going to do it anyway. But if I were in that troop, I would find ways to discretely be absent from an Eagle ceremony where the kid is in a casket.
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