Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@USSCOUTS.ORG)
Sun, 30 Aug 1998 01:13:02 -0400
Recently I received the following from a friend and Scouter half way
across the country (Thanks Bob). It got me to thinking.
This story could be a focal point for discussing the concept of duty or
perhaps part of leader's minute in training. Sometimes the simple act
of a single individual in dedication to duty can have enormous impact
even upon those who would be critical of us. As Scouts and Scouters we
sometimes find our values questioned and challenged. Sometimes we as a
group are not perfect and the group as a whole is criticized. That may
be, but when it comes down to it, the important thing is how we live our
lives and values. The story below of the impact of young Marine's
simple act of devotion to duty is food for thought.
The following commentary was submitted anonymously and recently appeared
in "The Scout," the command newspaper serving Camp Pendleton, Calif. A
foreign diplomat who often criticized American policy once observed a
United States Marine perform the evening colors ceremony. The diplomat
wrote about this simple but solemn ceremony in a letter to his country:
"During one of the past few days, I had occasion to visit the U.S.
Embassy in our capital after official working hours. I arrived at a
quarter to six and was met by the Marine on guard at the entrance of the
Chancery. He asked if I would mind waiting while he lowered the two
American flags at the Embassy. What I witnessed over the next 10
minutes so impressed me that I am now led to make this occurrence a part
of my ongoing record of this distressing era. The Marine was dressed in
a uniform which was spotless and neat. He walked with a measured tread
from the entrance of the Chancery to the stainless steel flagpole before
the Embassy and, almost reverently, lowered the flag to the level of his
reach where he began to fold it in military fashion. He then released
the flag from the clasps attaching it to the rope, stepped back from the
pole, made an about face, and carried the flag between his hands-one
above, one below-and placed it securely on a stand before the Chancery.
He then marched over to the second flagpole and repeated the same
lonesome ceremony. On the way between poles, he mentioned to me very
briefly that he would soon be finished. After completing his task, he
apologized for the delay-out of pure courtesy, as nothing less than
incapacity would have prevented him from fulfilling his goal-and said to
me, "Thank you for waiting, Sir. I had to pay honor to my country."
I have had to tell this story because there was something impressive
about a lone Marine carrying out a ceremonial task which obviously meant
very much to him and which, in its simplicity, made the might, the power
and the glory of the United States of America stand forth in a way that
a mighty wave of military aircraft, or the passage of a super-carrier,
or a parade of 10,000 men could never have made manifest. In spite of
all the many things that I can say negatively about the United States, I
do not think there is a soldier, yea, even a private citizen, who could
feel as proud about our country today as the Marine does for his
country. One day it is my hope to visit one of our embassies in a
far-away place and to see a soldier fold our flag and turn to a stranger
and say, "I am sorry for the delay, Sir. I had to honor my country."
And for those of us in the USA, we should also remember the dedication
to duty of the young Scout in London who by doing a good turn in a dense
fog so inspired William Boyce that on his return to the United States he
started the Boy Scouts of America that has since touched the lives of
millions of people here and abroad.
In Japan, Bob Taylor finally found the memorial to the Japanese soldier
who spared the life of an American soldier who in the face of death sang
the words to a song they had both learned at a World Jamboree. The
Japanese soldier risked all to live the values he'd learned as a Scout
to save the life of a fellow Scout in the midst of a terrible war.
If we look around it is not hard to find shining examples of people
whose lives are an inspiration because of the simple things that they do
that have a huge impact. In any meeting of Scouters there will be many
who quietly without much ado go about the business of helping Scouts to
grow and who also by their simple acts do so much more than many would
As leaders of young people you do things every time you meet with Scouts
without thinking much about it, because it is your duty. You extend a
helping hand, coach in a difficult moment, congratulate achievers, and
more. Along the way you also have a tremendous impact on young lives.
Sometimes you won't know just how much that means until years later, but
it means a lot to the young people who have a better chance of success
in life or a new sense of self-worth and esteem (maybe for the first
time) because of what you have done.
May we all strive to live the Scout Oath and Laws of our own countries
in such a way that our own examples will inspire others to great things.
Michael F. Bowman --- Professor Beaver NE-CS-41
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit
from Alexandria, Virginia - email@example.com
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City