For an eighteen month period in 1964 – 1966 being a Boy Scout was one of the most significant happenings in my life. The Boy Scout troop on Biggs Air Force Base at El Paso, Texas consumed most of my time. I loved the uniform, the discipline, the hiking, and camping. Well, you get the picture. I liked being a Boy Scout. I advanced from being a Tenderfoot to Second Class to First Class in record time. My goal was to be one of the youngest Eagle Scouts ever.
To achieve my goal I had to earn merit badges. Merit badges are awarded based on activities within an area of study by completing a list of periodically updated requirements. The purpose of the merit badge program allows Boy Scouts to examine subjects to determine if they would like to pursue them further as a career or vocation.
Back in my day the program also introduced Boy Scouts to the life skills of contacting an adult they hadn’t met. It required arranging a meeting, having the adult as your mentor and then demonstrating my skills, similar to a job or college interview. In more recent years, more merit badges are earned in a class setting at troop meetings and summer camps than through the guidance of a mentor.
I decided to seek the God and Country Merit Badge. I received a mimeographed list of available mentors. I called the man I selected and made an appointment.
I told my father I needed him to take me over to Fort Bliss to meet my mentor. Dad said okay. Kind of in passing, he asked who my mentor was.
I picked up my paper. I said the mentor told me he was retired from the US Army. Dad nodded. I told dad the mentor’s name was Omar Bradley. It has GA after his name, whatever that is. I knew rank abbreviations but had never seen GA before.
“General of the Army Omar Bradley?” asked dad with a gasp.
“I guess,” I recall replying.
Dad told me who he was. I gasped.
General Bradley was kind. He had been an Eagle Scout. I remember asking General Bradley what he did to relax during World War II. He said he and General Eisenhower used to work calculus problems. They would challenge each other with advanced mathematics. He said you can’t think of anything else or worry when working a real math problem. That’s when I learned calculus was math.
I was too young to appreciate the access I had to my mentor but am in awe that such men would help boys grow into our country’s future leaders. He kindly led me through the process of earning the God and Country Merit Badge. Thank you, General Bradley.
Photo Credit: Public Domain