The Words of the Wilkening Family

Three Unificationist Boy Scouts Attain Scouting’s Highest Rank

Christoph Wilkening
August 26, 2009

Kester Wilkening, Jacob Mas and Gideon Herstein at Eagle Court of Honor.

Boy Scout Troop 1212, composed almost entirely of Unificationist boys, honored the achievement of its 19th, 20th and 21st scouts to reach the coveted rank of Eagle Scout at a ceremony on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009, at the New Hope Academy in Landover Hills, Maryland. The young men honored at the Eagle Court of Honor were Gideon Herstein, Jacob Mas, and Aaron Kester Wilkening. Eagle Scout Jesse Haydon, 24, guided the program, attended by about 70 scouts, parents, and friends of scouting, as well as the pastor of New Hope Family Church, Angelika Selle, Boy Scout Unit Commissioner Robert Bixby, and the mayor of Landover Hills, Lee P. Walker.

“It takes somewhere between three to five thousand hours of combined total activity, spread out over five to six years for the average guy to make Eagle Scout.” observed Scoutmaster Jim Boothby. “It’s a tremendous accomplishment.”

For Jake Mas, former senior patrol leader and now Eagle honoree, learning leadership skills and hands-on organizational tasks were challenging. “I learned so much through scouts, and I grew a lot, but it wasn’t always easy,” Jake said.

What Eagle Scouts Learn

In addition to passing through six rank levels and participating in years of wilderness trips, service projects, and training programs, each Eagle candidate must fulfill the requirements for 21 merit badges, each in a specialty area. A successful merit badge completion recognizes that a scout has mastered a set of skills and knowledge in areas of interest such as hiking, canoeing, fishing, rifle shooting, cycling, archery, computers, aviation, auto mechanics, astronomy, metalwork, photography, medicine, oceanography, citizenship, and many more.

The second track of scouting, which, according to older scouts, is significantly more challenging, is the actual hands-on, week-to-week leadership of the troop by the boys themselves. The boys elect their own leaders, run all meetings, and plan their own trips and projects, with adults supporting. Kester Wilkening and Jake Mas both had the opportunity to lead the troop for more than a year as senior patrol leaders (SPLs). “Being the SPL really contributed greatly to my development as a person, “Kester said. “No question about it.”

After the invocation by Pastor Selle, Scoutmaster Jim Boothby addressed the Eagle Scouts and reminded them how desperately the world needs “men of character, conscience, and courage. Our country needs you and honestly, even God needs you, gentlemen.” Mr. Boothby has served as Troop 1212’s scoutmaster since the unit’s founding in 1999. Since then, several hundred Unificationist youth have passed through the scouting program sponsored by the New Hope Academy.

Representing the National Capitol Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Unit Commissioner Robert Bixby extolled the Eagle Scouts to do the “right hard” and not the “wrong easy.” Beaming proudly and happy for this long-awaited day, Mr. Bixby said, “You guys have the foundation now to accomplish many more great things in life.” Mayor Walker also expressed his satisfaction to be able to participate in the honoring of the worthy Eagle Scouts. As an ardent supporter of scouting, he had spared no effort to spread the word about the Eagle Court of Honor in the Landover Hills community and beyond.

A dramatic slide show, set to rock-and-roll music, showed big-screen images from the troop’s outdoor adventures. The show set the tone for the words of the Eagle Scouts themselves. All three can claim a variety of outdoor skills, adventures, and character-building experiences.

Eagle Testimonies

Gideon Herstein explained his struggle to finish his Eagle project -- in the middle of it, he was ready to give up. He credited his father, Arthur Herstein, for motivating him to keep going and achieve the Eagle rank. For his Eagle project he organized, with the help of his fellow scouts, a Christmas toy and clothing drive for Sarah’s House, a homeless shelter near Fort Meade, Maryland.

Jacob Mas shared that as a young scout he was captivated by the energy and high spirits of the older scouts during his first trip in the middle of winter and in frigid, snow-swept weather on the Dolly Sods plateau in West Virginia. “I definitely wanted to be a part of the action. I was hooked after that first trip,” he said. His Eagle project was an after-Christmas food drive that collected a quarter ton of food for a Baltimore-based program distributing food to needy families all over Maryland.

Kester Wilkening, 19, thanked his parents for all the time and energy they invested to make it possible for him to attend scouting events as well as to play soccer and engage in many other activities. He sang a song for his mother titled “I love you forever,” accompanying it with his guitar and a slide show depicting the love of a mother for her son, from baby to grown man. For his Eagle project, Kester led a group of scouts to resurface a forest trail with 19 tons of gravel, leading from the New Hope Academy down to the Landover Hills Town Hall, as well as cleaning and redirecting two streams that were eroding the pathway.

After the Eagle Scouts received their Eagle insignia, they presented the Eagle’s mother pin to their mothers. Then all former Eagle Scouts in the room -- men in their 50s and 60s and young men in their mid-20s -- gathered in the front of the room surrounding the three new Eagles. Mr. Boothby again welcomed them into the lifelong fraternity and brotherhood of Eagle Scouts. He exhorted them to live up to the opening words of the Scout Oath: “On my Honor, I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country…”

Even though the program lasted until well beyond 10 pm, everybody was highly energized, and many stayed until after 11 pm to share in the powerful vibration of the evening. Mr. Andy Halloway, in charge of public works for the town of Landover Hills, commented that this Eagle Court of Honor would stay with him as an extremely memorable evening.

In a closing comment Mr. Boothby remarked that this was in a sense a community-wide celebration and victory. He pointed out that it takes many dedicated adults’ long hours of effort to support these young men on their road to Eagle Scout. That includes three sets of parents, Principal Joy Morrow of New Hope Academy, Pastor Angelica Selle, and others.

Most poignant was to see the Scoutmaster Corps, all in uniform, called to stand and be recognized and applauded; they included Paul Bulow, Christoph Wilkening, Markus Hochmuth, Peter Holden, Alec Hunter, Bob Abendroth, Pietro Marchitelli, and Dennis Holcomb.

For more information about Troop 1212, e-mail Senior Patrol Leader James Abendroth or Scoutmaster Jim Boothby.

Contributed by Christoph Wilkening, a writer based in Bowie, Maryland, specializing in community and cultural affairs. 

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