I am an Eagle Scout. This is something I have mixed feelings about, but am proud of nonetheless. There are mixed reasons and mixed ways in which I got to that point and why I feel this way, none of which have to do with requirements or regulations, or for the most part, even about the Boy Scouts of America. But of what I feel is, in my opinion, essential to my earning of that badge that I never received.

I grew up in a family of Mormons. As some of you may know, there are two things which the Mormons encourage their children heavily to do: go become missionaries, and be Boy Scouts. As such, the local church had a troop of its own, mostly run by veteran Scouts of various persuasions, my favorite being a Queen's Scout from New Zealand. For those who don't know, that is the equivalent there of an Eagle Scout and is recognized as being the same by the BSA.

I didn't go to Boy Scouts to prove that I knew how to wear a neckerchief or that I could make some moccasins or a wallet at camp. I went to spend time outdoors with others who wanted to be outdoors, and to learn things with others who could at least fake wanting to learn. I know the standard knots and knife-safety just like anyone else who's been through the Boy Scout system, but unlike other troops, mine had drive and ambition. As a result, I can honestly say that I've been snow camping, spelunking, rappelling, rock climbing, and that I know how to take care of firearms. I know that may not mean a lot to you southerners and others from rugged terrain such as Montana and such, but the average Californian is clueless when they grew up in the bay area if you hand them a rifle or shotgun and tell them to clean it.

After years of doing this, I over time accumulated enough merit badges in such areas of knowledge as personal management, shotgun shooting, lifesaving, first aid, safety, camping, orienteering (navigation using compass and map), and all sorts of other things that taken individually may not seem all that useful these days. But the process of learning these things was the important thing. I learned them while doing potentially dangerous and/or deadly (if done improperly ) things, like sleeping in a snow cave or hanging off a rope I had tied myself, standing horizontally on a wall.

I did my Eagle project just like any other Eagle Scout. Spent more than a month on it, involving not only other scouts but my peers and people who were twice my age, honing my skills at organizing and heading up a project of some high degree of professional scale (with the assistance of a professional in that field) for a local school. Submitted my paperwork, gritted my teeth, and waited.

Word on the street says that somewhere in that church building back in California, my Eagle Scout Presentation Package once was. But meanwhile, in a series of problems that I still to this day don't really know what happened behind the scenes, the leadership of the troop fell apart. I have no idea where that Eagle Scout Presentation Package has disappeared to, complete with the signed certificate by the President of the United States. Rumor has it that an ex-scoutmaster took it with him when he moved. But I don't mind.

It's not that I'm not proud to be (and call myself) an Eagle Scout. Believe me, I am. I mark it proudly on my resume, and I consider myself to be an Eagle Scout. But because it wasn't important enough for the leadership of my troop to take the effort not to completely FUBAR my happy ending, I've come to the sad realization that at least in my old hometown, being an Eagle Scout no longer means what it once did. And as a result of this, when someone asks who in a room is an Eagle Scout, I have to hesitate before I step forward, all over one stupid patch that I earned that never got sewn on my uniform.