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January 10, 2006 > Generations of Eagles

Generations of Eagles

A newly formed United States of America searched for a symbol of long life, great strength and majesty. A glance toward the heavens and the sight of a magnificent bird soaring above in freedom provided the icon. Chosen as a national image on June 20, 1782, the Bald Eagle has remained a visual reminder of our adherence to the principles of freedom and its expression in thought and word.

Eagles hold a special place in scouting as well. The rank of Eagle - the highest category in Scouting - carries a special significance, not only within the Boy Scouts of America, but in adult life as well. Requirements of this rank call for candidates to demonstrate their prowess in leadership, service and outdoor skills. Performance-based achievement is the measure of success. Only about 4 percent of all Boy Scouts - more than 1 million Boy Scouts since 1911 - attain Eagle status, advancing through the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life.

Those who become an Eagle Scout retain the title for life and often use their experience as a template for later success. Examples of Eagle scouts who have become well-known public figures include Willie Banks (Olympian), Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr. (U.S. Senator), Gerald R. Ford (U.S. President), James A. Lovell Jr. (astronaut), William C. DeVries, M.D. (surgeon and educator) and Harrison Salisbury (author).

The few who achieve Eagle rank have demonstrated an ability to rise above others - a source of pride for the scout, their peers and family. Occasionally, siblings will earn Eagle rank and at rare times, a son duplicates his father's accomplishment. But finding a multigenerational link of Eagle scouts spanning three generations is extraordinary. One of these special events occurred last year when local resident and physician, James W. Gearhart, M.D., FACS traveled to Monroe, Ala. to stand beside his son, Andrew Gearhart D.D.S. for the Eagle Scout induction ceremony of his grandson, Drew A. Gearhart on Nov. 3, 2005. Drew now attends the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa as a freshman.

James Gearhart became an Eagle Scout in 1942 as a member of Troop 12 of Montclair, N.J. He remains active in scouting as Scoutmaster of Troop 161 in Fremont and was awarded the prestigious "Silver Beaver" award in 1970 for "Distinguished Service to Boyhood." All three of his sons - James III, Andrew and John - are Eagle Scouts. Andrew Gearhart attained the rank of Eagle Scout in 1969 as a member of Troop 161 in Fremont. He now serves as the Scout Leader of Troop 24 in Monroeville, Ala.

The multigenerational gathering became even more special when Dr. James Gearhart presented Eagle Scout Drew Gearhart with a United States flag, flown over the U.S. Capitol on his grandson's birthday. An accompanying letter and certificate noted that, at the request of Representative Jo Bonner of Alabama, the flag "was flown for Drew Gearhart on the occasion of Eagle Scout and his Birthday."

In the Gearhart family, scouting is truly "a family affair."

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