Boy Scout Troop 1539 is set to hold a court of honor this Sunday, June 16 — but it’s no ordinary court of honor.
Traditionally, when a Scout graduates to the coveted rank of Eagle Scout his achievement is celebrated in this special ceremony.
This Sunday, however, Troop 1539 will celebrate the Eagle status of not just one, but seven young men.
Phillip Kelly, Mitch Bartholemew, Austin Peterson, Alex Hurst, Zachary Roundy, Andrew Cudlipp and Hank Ahrens will all be recognized for their achievement at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall on Central Valley Road from 4 to 6 p.m.
“It’s kind of inertia,” said troop leader Tom Bougan. “The troop (1539) has had a total of just about 60 Eagle Scouts in their history.”
The troop grew dramatically five or six years ago, Bougan said. So now those boys, many of whom started together, are beginning to graduate.
This Sunday is also set aside for another celebration — June 16 is Fathers’ Day. Bougan said it wasn’t planned that way on purpose. It was mainly done to accommodate families coming into town for graduation.
But for those like Hank’s father, George Ahrens, spending Fathers’ Day at his son’s court of honor symbolizes the pinnacle of all their time spent together in the Scouts.
When his son joined the Cub Scouts at around 6 or 7 years old, George got involved right along with him. He speaks of his and his son’s experience in scouting as an adventure that the two of them shared together.
“We started with the Tigers and worked ourselves up through the Cub Scout program,” George said.
When Hank moved up from the Cub Scouts to the Boy Scouts around the age of 10, George went with him.
“I worked with most of the boys, became an assistant Scout Master so I could have some of the fun the boys were having,” George said.
One of his favorite memories from his years in the Scouts with his son came just after they moved up to the Boy Scouts. They were snowshoeing into Reflection Lake at the base of Mt. Rainier in November with some of the other young scouts who had also just crossed over.
The visibility was bad when they made camp — the mountain obscured by bad weather, but overnight the weather cleared up.
“The reward was, first of all, knowing they could (make the hike),” George said, “but, second of all, waking up the next morning.”
George spent what he estimates to be four or four-and-a-half years as an assistant Scout Master. Through that experience, he and Hank have had the opportunity to hike hundreds of miles and camp dozens of nights together.
“It really has given us the opportunity to bond, bring us closer to together,” George said.
For his part, Hank said the opportunity to spend so much time with his dad has helped them bond.
“I definitely think we’ve gotten closer because of the time we’ve spent together, that’s for sure,” Hank said.
The most gratifying aspect of George’s own participation in scouting, as a father, has been the ability to share meaningful experiences with his son, he said.
He has been there step-by-step with his son, to be able to see him go through the issues every teenager experiences and see him solve them.
At one point in the Boy Scouts, Hank, George and other scouts from Troop 1539 visited Philmont Ranch in New Mexico, where they spent 10 days camping in the backcountry.
“You can’t get any better than that,” George said, “(to) be with nature, be with your son. I would say Philmont will be something that I will always talk about, he’ll always talk about.”
The Ahrens moved from Silverdale to Naches in eastern Washington two years ago, after George retired from Naval Base Kitsap - Bangor. Hank, despite being recognized for achieving scouting’s highest rank, still has a couple years before he turns 18 and graduates from high school.
He is going into his junior year and he and his father have no plans to stop their outdoor activity anytime soon. They’ve been working with a new troop in Naches since their move.
At Sunday’s court of honor, Hank’s parents will pin on his Eagle — and then, in accordance with tradition, Hank will pin his parents as well. Putting himself in his father’s shoes, Hank looked to the future.
“I’m sure when I have kids of my own I’m definitely going to put them in Boy Scouts,” he said.
When George and Hank’s time in the scouts inevitably comes to an end, George says he will simply be glad they did it all while they could.
“This is going to give him something to look back on …” George said. “Whether I’m around or not, he’ll be able to look back and say ‘I remember when dad and I did …”
Here he trails off, whether lost in the experiences of the past or the opportunities of the future it’s impossible to tell. But for now, he’s spending the time with his son firmly in the present.