A group of young men who comprise Statesboro’s Boy Scouts of America Troop 342 were reminded Monday about the importance of their ideals by perhaps Bulloch County’s most famous scout.
Eagle Scout and current Georgia Southern University Eagle football coach Jeff Monken shared fond memories of scouting and spoke of the organization’s principles to more than 150 people gathered in the Statesboro Primitive Baptist Church Fellowship Hall for the troop’s third annual Good Scout Dinner.
Monken used time at the podium as the event’s keynote speaker to share with the crowd his experiences in Boy Scouts of America and reflect on how those moments forever shaped his life.
“I am proud to say that I am an Eagle Scout, and it was really a great experience for me to be a scout,” Monken said. “Boy Scouts is a special organization. It teaches things that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives — things that will remain important until the day we die.”
The Georgia Southern coach expressed his belief in the Scout Law — that a young man should aim to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
“I’ve never forgotten the scout law. It is something that sticks with you,” Monken said. “You never forget it. It becomes important to you, and you realize what those words truly mean when you live by them.”
Monken’s speech worked through the list of characteristics, detailing what he feels it means to be each.
“Our scout law begins with trustworthy,” Monken said. “It’s fitting because I’m not sure there is a more important trait on the list.”
“A person who is honest and trustworthy is a person who is esteemed,” he said. “And being esteemed is much more important than being envied. I hope that if the young people in this room remember anything, it is that it is much more important in life to be esteemed. It is such an important law for all of us.”
The former scout also revealed a few favorite memories from time spent in Boy Scout Troop 12 out of New Lenox, Illinois.
He reflected on nights spent camping, while looking up at a sky “almost more white than black” because of stars, and he joked about feeling like a turtle after the 105-lb version of himself fell over while tying a shoe and couldn’t stand back up because of a pack that weighed more than half of his own body-weight.
Through it all, Monken said, he never stopped learning.
“I learned to repel, to swim well and so many other things,” he said. “I also learned life-saving skills — learned to clean, to cook, and I learned hard work.”
After the coach’s address, Former Chairman of the Boy Scouts of America, Ogeechee District, and local attorney, Lovett Bennett Jr. announced the event’s primary guest of honor.
Bennett announced John D. Russell as the recipient of the 2012 Good Scout award — a recognition meant to celebrate an individual who has shown a lifetime of support for the organization.
Russell was a scout master for 25 years and has been involved with the Statesboro troop since 1981. According to Bennett, Russell saw 24 scouts advance to the level of Eagle Scout in the time he served as a scout master — “an amazing number,” he said.
According to Bennett, in all the years spent as a scout master, Russell “never missed a camp or local event where scouts were involved and even hiked, at the age of 67, about 58 miles, two miles above sea level, with a 70-lb pack during a mountain excursion in 2006.
At the age of 73, Russell will make another outdoor adventure trip with scouts this summer, hiking and canoeing in Minnesota, Bennett said.
Russell received a standing ovation as he took the podium to receive his honor.
“I certainly appreciate the recognition,” said Russell, who used the time to thank multiple people who he said were instrumental in the success of Troop 342 during his tenure. “It is a huge responsibility to be a scout master, and I thank all the folks who have stuck with me.”
“Thank you very much,” he said.
Russell was presented with the Good Scout statue by the 2011 recipient, Charlie Williams.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.