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Troop 342 says farewell with pinning of its last Eagle Scouts
W whole group
Former assistant Scoutmaster Tom Armstrong, center, congratulates the families of Durden Gagel and Cross Womack upon their earning Eagle Scout pins. - photo by DANIELLE BRANNON/special

The last two official Eagle Scouts from Troop 342, Durden Gagel and Cross Womack, celebrated their pinning with family, friends, other Eagle Scouts and Scoutmaster Lovett Bennett during a March 11 ceremony at Statesboro Primitive Baptist Church. 

The troop was disbanded on Dec. 31, 2017 after 54 years of growing and training boys in the Statesboro and Bulloch County community to become the best they could be — and reaching one of the highest honors in scouting: becoming an Eagle Scout. 

Scoutmaster Bennett, who was troop leader from 2004-17 and assistant troop leader from 1998 to 2004, officiated in the official final ceremony that would ever take place within the troop. Under his leadership, more than 63 boys were able to become an Eagle Scout. 

Guests at the ceremony included Suzie Ryan Curtis, who opened and closed the ceremony. Curtis is the representative for the Georgia Coastal Council and is the assistant scout executive for the Coastal Council.

Also, Cindy Lupton accepted a brick to be installed at the Philmont Scout Ranch Camp in Cimmaron, New Mexico. It was given in honor of her late Eagle Scout husband, Hunter Lupton, who was the Georgia Coastal Council High Adventure coordinator for many years and assisted Bennett in getting Troop 342 scouts through the process to attend the camps and helped establish fundraising for many of the trips.

Lupton spoke about her appreciation of the brick in honor of her late husband and the scouting program and all it offers to young boys and their families.

Tom Armstrong, who became and Eagle Scout in 1957, was an important part of Troop 342 for six years as the assistant scoutmaster and district chairman. He participated in the evening’s pinning ceremony of new Eagle Scouts Gagel and Womack.

Gagel is a senior at Statesboro High and has been with Troop 342 since he advanced from Cub Scouts to Eagle Scout. He spoke and thanked his family – mother Kelly Kennedy and father George Gagel Sr., brother Eagle Scout George Gagel, his scoutmaster and his grandmother,  and reminisced about having to “get the job done” so he could obtain his rank of Eagle Scout he had worked for many years. 

“My parents , my grandmother and my brother encouraging me made a huge difference,” he said. “I’m very thankful for them for this and for my troop.” 

Womack is a 16-year-old sophomore at Bulloch Academy, and has been with Troop 342 since he began fifth grade at age 11. In his speech he thanked Bennett as well as Ken Johnson and Tom Armstrong, his mother Valerie Powell, his father Glenn Womack, and  friends and family.

“I couldn’t have made it without the adults in my life pushing me and believing in me,” he said. “There were many nights my mother was sort of yelling out  to get ‘that paperwork’ finished up, and I was running around trying to get it all researched, printed  and written down before the next meeting to present to Mr. Bennett or Mr. Ken Johnson. Whew! Those nights were tough, but thanks to my ‘village’ it all worked out!  

“Without them, I probably wouldn’t be here, and it’s nice to be able to pin my mother, father and grandmother today. “

Troop 342 will always be a very special troop to so many boys throughout the county, state and places beyond. It upheld the scout motto and laws to teach boys to be at the top of the work ethic moral compass, while being reverent to God.  

“Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.”

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