Boy Scout Troop 306 in Catonsville has a long tradition of presenting a bouquet of roses to the mother of a new Eagle Scout. At the troop’s most recent Eagle Scout investiture ceremony, however, flowers were presented to both the scout’s mother and his wife. And the new honoree had the obligations and responsibilities of an Eagle Scout read to him by his own sons, both now in college and both Eagle Scouts themselves.
Troop 306’s newest Eagle Scout waited 35 years to receive his official recognition.
His story should be the basis for a movie, because it’s a heart-warming tale with a wonderful message. But the hero demonstrates the rather pedestrian traits of forgiveness, faithfulness, loyalty and long-term service—and exhibits none of the angry drama nor achieves the glamorous overnight success that seems to be required for an exciting movie.
That it is not exciting makes it no less wonderful, however.
In 1978, Life Scout David Warshaw of Troop 306 presented himself for his Eagle Scout Board of Review. Like other scouts before and after him, Warshaw had worked years for this day. Statistically, only about 2% of all boys who enter Scouting reach the rank of Eagle. To do so, a Scout must prove himself in a variety of leadership roles, advancing through the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, and Life by serving and leading other boys in the troop and learning and proving new skills through the attainment of merit badges. A Scout must earn 21 merit badges before being eligible to become an Eagle, many of them requiring months of supervised work. After a Scout has earned the required badges and served in at least three major leadership positions within the troop, he is ready for the final element, the Eagle Scout project. This is a project chosen to serve the community that is planned and managed by the Scout, who must recruit crews to complete the work. When it’s finished, he evaluates the process and the work itself, and presents himself to a board of leaders who review his project and his career as a Scout and determine whether he is worthy to earn the rank of Eagle. It all must be completed before he reaches his 18th birthday.
Very often the Scout will approach the board as a raw jumble of nerves, and the members sitting in judgment may loom with stern demeanors and fire off seemingly endless questions. But in the end, if the Scout has truly done the work represented, he passes the ordeal and becomes an Eagle. His family and troop celebrate together with a special ceremony, the Eagle Scout Court of Honor.
Dave Warshaw may have been imagining his own ceremony that day in 1978 as he stood before the Board of Review. But something went wrong. Instead of congratulations, Warshaw was told that due to procedural errors, his Eagle application was not approved. Shocked and devastated, Warshaw returned home knowing that he was forever denied access to the brotherhood of those devoted to scouting.
No one would have blamed him for being bitter. No one would have blamed him if he had ranted against the Scouts and spoken out against them at every turn. Instead, he served them.
Fast forward to fatherhood. When his oldest son Bill enrolled in Cub Scouts, Dave took on leadership roles within the pack. He continued in pack leadership until his youngest son Jimmy bridged up to Boy Scouts – to Troop 306, the same troop that rejected him. Dave soon became Chairman of the Troop Committee, putting in hours every week to grow the troop and make the boys’ experience adventurous, positive and uplifting. He not only encouraged his own two sons to continue on the path of work and service to advance through the ranks and become an Eagle, he also enabled many other boys to do so. Today he still serves as an advisor to the troop, participating in events and leading outings. Has he shown any bitterness? No. It’s a great example of forgiveness in action.
And finally, his faithful service was recognized in what may be the world’s first ever surprise Eagle Scout Court of Honor.
As his birthday approached, Dave figured his wife Gay was planning something. There were a few too many text messages from people who would normally text him instead of her. So when he walked in to Dimitri’s restaurant last Saturday night, he expected to find a few friends and family waiting to celebrate his birthday.
The friends were there and the word “surprise” did not surprise him—but what did surprise him was that there were so many people and that two of them pulled him aside to put on the shirt of his scout uniform. Then they showed him the banner that read “Congratulations Eagle Scout David Warshaw.” This was no ordinary birthday party.
Thirty-five years later, Warshaw was finally awarded his Eagle pin. In fact, just like Dave, the pin had been waiting for recognition since the 1970s. Current Troop 306 Committee Chair Mike McDonal found the silver pin while going through boxes of scout stuff in Catonsville Presbyterian Church, which has hosted the troop for over 100 years. He knew Dave’s story and spent years working behind the scenes to convince those in headquarters to grant the award. The hard work eventually paid off, but once the success was achieved, McDonal and Warshaw’s wife Gay decided to keep the secret a while, until after the Warshaw’s youngest son had a chance to celebrate his own Eagle Scout Court of Honor. She planned the surprise ceremony for her husband on his birthday, and it may have been the best present he ever received.
All the Scout leaders in the room, all the friends, all the family—everyone there knew that Dave Warshaw epitomized what an Eagle Scout should be. They already considered him to be of that rank. Probably the only person in the room who didn’t consider Dave an Eagle Scout was Dave himself. But now it’s unanimous. Congratulations to Troop 306’s “newest” Eagle Scout.
photo by Don Martin