Fly as an Eagle
EAGLE, Colorado – Boys Scouts are 100 years old this year, but they might not have ever seen anything quite like Michael El-Bitar.
About one in 10,000 boys who join Boy Scouts earn their Eagle Scout rank, Scouting’s highest honor. For most of those it takes years. Michael did it in months.
He finished his Eagle Scout requirements in just under two years, faster than anything this side of a physics experiment. He would have had it done a couple months earlier, but processing the paperwork took a while. Some folks up the Boy Scouts corporate ladder couldn’t believe a kid could so much so fast.
He started Scouting as a kid, although you sometimes forget he’s still a kid, 14 years old.
“Once I started, I loved it so I just kept going,” Michael said.
Michael is with Troop 222 based in Eagle, although it attracts scouts from all over the valley.
The Boy Scouts are a study in stacking up short-term accomplishments on the way to a long-term goal. All kinds of merit badges must be earned, community projects completed. Then there’s the general fun-having.
Michael rolled up 75 nights of camping with the troop. On one camp out, he brought along enough provisions to make 20 pizzas, two rounds in 10 dutch ovens. About that time, the winds started howling and knocked over most of their tents. The pizzas pulled through.
He attended the National Jamboree last summer in Virginia, along with 50,000 of his closest Scouting friends.
“It was big,” Michael said. “I’ve never been around that many scouts at once.”
Not everything goes according to plan. There was the Klondike Derby, a winter camp out each February with Scouts from all over the region. Scouts live by mottos like “Do a good turn daily,” so, during a sled race in which the scouts were doing the pulling, a kid in front of him fell down. Michael stopped to help him up and got run over by another sled.
Then there’s the Eagle project. Along with everything else, Eagle Scouts are required to complete a community service project for their Eagle rank.
Like everything else, Michael figured if it was worth doing, it was worth doing big. He put together a team to rebuild part of a team-building course in Minturn, used by SOS/Meet the Wilderness, among others.
They created stations, like the one where eight people swing on a rope one at a time from one platform to another. The object is to move all eight people with no one falling off the platform. No one has done it, yet.
There’s a safe, sturdy bridge where there was a rickety expanse before, almost cartoonish it was so dilapidated.
It took 200 hours of volunteer time, plus 180 hours of his own time. But construction also only took two days.
“Because of all the help we had, it went quickly,” Michael said.
For his Star rank, Michael organized a community service project for his school. For Life, he organized the troop’s work at Eagle’s PotatoPalooza, running the children’s station.
It’s a big deal when a scout earns his Eagle rank. Family and friends are invited in for a Court of Honor, along with current and former scouts who’ve earned their Eagle rank and those who will.
Prather Silverthorn was there, back from college for the occasion. He’s the last scout from Troop 222 to earn his Eagle, before Michael.
The president of the United States signs Eagle certificates. Rich Howard presented Michael his certificate.
Fred Distledorf spoke at Michael’s Eagle Court of Honor. He earned his Eagle rank just before World War II, and talked about what it means to be an Eagle then and now. It’s pretty much the same, that being trustworthy, loyal and brave are values that last.
They’ve lasted through 100 years of scouting, and will last at least 100 more.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.