35 Eagle Scouts honored in century-long tradition
WINCHESTER — Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley had some words of advice for local Eagle Scouts on Saturday night.
“Stay on the Eagle trail,” he told them. “You’ve earned the Eagle rank. It’s something else to live it the rest of your life.”
About 150 people attended the annual banquet at the Travelodge on Front Royal Pike. The event celebrated the 35 local youths, including those from West Virginia, who recently achieved Eagle Scout rank.
Saturday was also the 100th anniversary of the first Eagle Scout.
“I really feel proud of these guys,” said William “Yogi” Bear, a Scout official. “We get to see the finished project of a great program.”
Eagle Scout is the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America. To become an Eagle, scouts must earn at least 21 merit badges and plan, lead and manage an extensive service project.
Since its start in 1912, more than 2 million youths have earned Eagle Scout rank.
Freakley, an Eagle Scout formerly of Woodstock, started his career in 1975 when he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy.
He served as an Army officer for more than 36 years, which included deployments in Operations Desert Shield (Iraq), Desert Storm (Saudi Arabia), and Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan).
Freakley earned a parachutist’s badge, an air-assault badge, combat infantryman badge, and two bronze stars.
He retired as a lieutenant general. Right before retirement, he oversaw the nation’s junior and college ROTC programs, among other duties.
About 14 percent of those at service academies achieve Eagle rank.
Freakley said of the 1,364 men who entered his class at West Point, 100 were Eagle Scouts.
Freakley’s speech was meant to inspire the youths to be great leaders and live morally.
“You’re in charge now of you,” he said. “You may be whatever you’re resolved to be.”
Freakley encouraged the scouts in attendance to be courteous, kind, moral, technically proficient, physically fit and faithful to God and country.
“Our nation more than ever needs leaders of character,” he said.
He also advised them to not partake in things that could get them in trouble.
“Stay focused on the Eagle trail,” he said. “Avoid these short-term temptations and be strong.”
At the end of his speech, Freakley was met with a standing ovation.
— Contact Rebecca Layne at firstname.lastname@example.org