This story was submitted by Jim Borders, an Eagle Scout and veteran. He is shipping an American flag around the world to all of the places that made a difference in his life, including his old Boy Scout Troop.
In 1984 I moved to Norcross, GA just in time to start high school. I had been active in Scouts ever since I was old enough to join Cub Scouts as part of the Trans-Atlantic Council while my father, a Marine, was stationed in London, England. When we moved to Georgia from the Washington DC area I wanted to find a Troop right away, and a man in my neighborhood named Randy Lewis was starting a Troop at the new Simpsonwood UMC. I immediately signed up as a charter member (one of the original 5) of the Troop. which would use the number of Mr Lewis’ boyhood Troop from Tennessee, Troop 525.
For two years I served as the Senior Patrol Leader (SPL), then for two more I was the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster and in November of 1987 I became the Troop’s first Eagle Scout.
In our first year the Troop was barely the size of a Patrol, but we grew quickly and were over forty boys by the time I headed off to college at Penn State University. I remained active with the Troop in the summers, taking them to summer camp and on other outings as an Assistant Scoutmaster. Then, after graduating from college and while waiting for the Air Force to activate me, I came back to Norcross and served as the Troop’s fourth Scoutmaster in 1992.
In January of 1993 I reported to my first duty station and my Air Force adventure began. For the past 24 years I have served as an intelligence officer and it has been a rewarding experience. I have worked with bomber and fighter aircraft, been assigned to Space Command and Special Operations Command, and I have deployed to Haiti, Saudi Arabia and Iraq along with four other countries.
My favorite job has been serving as a professor of Political Science at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where I have had the privilege of mentoring some of the finest young men and women in the country as they prepare to serve their country as Air Force officers. Along the way I have also met several Philmont crews from Troop 525 as they stopped in Colorado Springs on their way to New Mexico.
This year I will retire from the Air Force after 24 years of service. In commemoration of this event I was sent a U.S. flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol on Veterans Day. That flag is now making its way to each of the bases I was stationed at and some of the overseas locations I have been deployed to. In addition to the bases I have been assigned to, I decided that I wanted it to visit a few other places of significance to my Air Force career such as the churches my family attended and, of course, Boy Scout Troop 525.
As I look back on my time in the Air Force, I have relished most the opportunity to serve, but I am always cognizant of the fact that the foundations of my experience in service and leadership came in Troop meetings and on camp-outs with Troop 525. The Air Force hasn’t taught me half the leadership lessons that I learned trying to lead boys in organizing Scout skill training, and you haven’t seen multi-tasking until you have watched an SPL try to get the Troop set up in the dark on Friday night of a camp-out in a new campsite. I learned to love both learning and teaching by studying my Boy Scout Handbook on a Monday afternoon in preparation to teach knot tying at a Monday evening Troop meeting.
On February 1st, 2016, Troop 525 raised my flag at their weekly Troop meeting. The significance of that occasion was two-fold. First, while I cherish the memories and fun of my years in the Troop, equally important was that the time I spent there is what prepared me for so much that has come since. Second, the fact that there is still a Troop 525 and that it is still teaching young men about leadership, character and outdoor skills tells me that something we started back then was valuable. So important, in fact, that it has continued for 32 years now. Troop 525 taught me how to lead and to serve others, and it instilled in me a love of the outdoors that I have never relinquished.
Today, in the Pikes Peak Council I am a Cubmaster for Pack 94, where my youngest son, John (10), is a Webelo II and about to cross-over into Boy Scouts. I am also an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 194, where my older son Andrew (12) is a Life Scout. My oldest child, Elizabeth (15) is obviously not a Scout, but she has been with me (or usually ahead of me) on more than a dozen of the 17 peaks over 14,000′ tall I have climbed here in Colorado. I pass on the lessons I learned in Scouting to my kids in many of our activities. Fatherhood and careers may seem a million miles away to the current members of Troop 525, but this essay you are reading now is a further draft of a letter I sent to them as they honored my traveling U.S. flag. I told them, as I would tell any young man, that the things they have the opportunity to do right now in Scouting can make a difference in everything that comes afterwards. I can say with confidence that the mentorship of their Scoutmasters will be something that they will never forget, and the friendship of their fellow Scouts is the start of some lifelong friendships. As my flag makes a journey to the bases I have been assigned to or deployed to in the Air Force, its travels would have been incomplete if it didn’t also visit Troop 525.