Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Scout’s Honor

Honor: honesty and integrity in one’s beliefs and actions. — BSA Pledge
Lt. General E.G. “Buck” Shuler is Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Mighty Eighth Museum and he is my childhood friend. I am a captive audience as the General leads us on a tour of the museum, speaks of significant fighter planes or points to a photo of a celebrated WWII Ace. My friend wears a crown of white hair these days, but it only takes a blink for me to remember him as the redheaded boy he was when we were kids.
At fifteen, maybe sixteen-years-old, Buck’s tall, lanky body is erect. He holds his chin high as the Scout Master pins a red, white and blue BSA medal over my his heart. Having earned his twenty-first merit badge, he is being elevated to Eagle Scout, future leader, a man who will one day make a difference in the world.
The expressions I see on the faces of his parents reflect the pride they feel in their son’s early accomplishments. They know how difficult it was for him to earn merit badges while juggling schoolwork, football and an active student’s social life. They raised their son to be unafraid of challenges gave him a caring heart and are proud of their endowments.
Someone in the group behind me sneezes and I am quickly brought back to the here and now as my old friend tells us about the gallant Mighty Eighth aviators who have served our country since I was two-years-old. Proud and happy to credit his compatriots, Buck pointedly shies away from mentioning his own, not insignificant contributions.
Buck Shuler, outstanding graduate of The Citadel and former Commander of the Eighth Air Force, was first a Boy Scout. It occurs to me that his early training cemented and honed his sense of commitment. Perhaps his early training brought him to leadership positions at The Citadel and then continued to guide him toward an illustrious military career. For sure, the BSA Motto remained with him as a reminder to do his best, to do his duty to God and country and to help others.
This former Boy Scout flew 107 combat missions over North Vietnam, the Republic of Vietnam and Laos while I was tucking two baby boys safely into bed each night. My son’s first day in kindergarten occurred the day Buck was deployed to Taegu Air Base, South Korea in answer to the USS Pueblo crisis.
In summer, my children and I meandered the South Carolina beaches in search of shark’s teeth while my friend flew F-4C combat support missions in the Korean demilitarized zone. He defended my family and me while I looked for shells, went to parties and took freedom for granted.
I remained safe at home reading books or nagging my husband for squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle while General Shuler initiated the first air attack on Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf.
Because of his strong determination, strength of character and knowledge, it is now possible for people who have taken peace for granted in the past — people like me — to honor the brave men and women who serve in our stead.
General Buck Shuler would be the last one to say that he was a key player in the formation of the Mighty Eighth Air Museum, but he was. And he took on that responsibility even after retiring from the Air Force. He did so for one reason: to honor those who did not take peace for granted.
My friend deserved the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster he received, the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with five Oak Leaf Clusters, and his Air Force Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. He more than earned the Republic of Korea’s Order of National Security Merit Cheonsu Medal, as well as thirteen other decorations and ribbons.
If, however, all of the medals, citations and awards presented to this honorable man should somehow disappear never to be seen again by the naked eye, I suspect one badge would remain stamped forever on his brain. That would be a red, white and blue BSA Eagle Scout medal, pinned over his heart in 1952, faded from his many years of service. Because of his early training, other future leaders have learned from him what it means to make a difference in the world.
General E. G. “Buck” Shuler, Eagle Scout, still soars like an eagle. Scout’s Honor.

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