Winner Of The Losers

One man's life experiences and lessons

Archive for the ‘Boy Scouts’ Category


admin On June - 4 - 2013ADD COMMENTS


For food, for raiment

For life, for opportunity

For friendship and fellowship

We thank thee, O Lord. Amen.

The Traditional Grace used at Philmont Scout Ranch, in New Mexico, is also known as the Wilderness Grace, or the Worth Ranch Grace. It is attributed to Jerry Fulkerson from the Worth Ranch Scout Camp in Texas.


In 1979, I was 14 years old and I had the opportunity to take an Amtrak Train from Columbus, Ohio to Raton, New Mexico to go to the Philmonth Scout Ranch. The mecca of the Boy Scouts. Wow what an experience; mentally and physically. From the first meal at the Dining Hall, and each of the 10-days backpacking for over 60 miles on the trails, we said the Philmont Grace. A simple beautiful prayer that I used throughout my Scouting years, as a youth and adult. Even today, 34 years later, I fondly recite the Philmont Grace.


Edgar LaBenne, summer 1979 at Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico.

FOR FOOD For the food of combined thought from all over our great country, to help us grow wiser in Scouting. FOR RAIMENT For our Scouting uniform, which we have not only the blessing to wear, but the duty to honor. FOR LIFE For a life of freedom in these great United States, a nation unsurpassed anywhere on this fragile planet, where we are truly free to live the aims of Scouting. FOR OPPORTUNITY For the opportunity of Philmont and this scouting event itself, to be here with you, some of the finest in the scouting movement. FOR FRIENDSHIP For those we have met at Philmont, and grown to respect through that common interest, our devotion to the development of the youth. AND FELLOWSHIP To share a laugh, To help a friend in some small way, To share a sunrise, A sunset, This scouting event. And to return, if only for a moment, to our youth again and together climb a mountain, and reach the stars. WE THANK THEE, O LORD Our thanks goes to the one who we individually believe allows us to share the scouting experience with all. – Author Unknown


3Philmont Scout Ranch is the Boy Scouts of America’s 137,000 acre High Adventure base near Cimarron, NM. Trekkers will be members of 7-to-12 person crews backpacking through the Sangre de Christo range of the Rocky Mountains in north central New Mexico. Memories from your 11-day backpacking adventure will last a lifetime. Archery, black powder and 30.06 rifle shooting, fishing, blacksmithing, mountain biking, homesteading, gold panning, and summiting peaks legendary in BSA lore are just a few of the activities you may encounter at the ranch. Trek itineraries cover from 60 to 100 miles and are classified as challenging, rugged, strenuous, and super strenuous. Join the trip and see bear, elk, deer, turkey, etc. as you hike through areas originally used by Native Americans and trappers hundreds of years ago. Philmont is an amazing place.

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Over the years, I have been involved in the planning and execution of over 100 large Boy Scout functions.  Nearly every event has a patch.  One of the big annual events was the Section Conclave for the Order of the Arrow (nearly 50 weekend conclaves a year across the country) .  As an adult, I twice was assigned to Section SR-3 (Blytheville AFB in Arkansas and Tinker AFB in Oklahoma).  This is a very large geographical section for the Order of the Arrow.  The annual event could bring 700 to 1,000 people together and it would be held at a Boy Scout Camp.

The Area 3 Director, a professional scouter at the time was Richard “Dick” Austin.  A seasoned professional who was responsible for the appointment of the Section Adviser and Section Staff Adviser (professional scouter) to advise the Section Chief (an elected youth).  In an unusual move, Dick chose to hold the Section Staff Adviser himself.  As a youth he was a Lodge Chief and Vigil Honor.


During one of the conclave planning meetings, the youth selected the patch design and theme for the conclave.  Dick was new to the section, as was I having just moved to Oklahoma.  Ironically, 10 years earlier, I was in the same section but living in Arkansas.  Dick consulted the current Section Adviser, Jim Rhoades and me on how many patches to order.


Jim stated with authority and we thought inside knowledge, “We need to order at least 2,000 patches, because we run out every year.”  Dick looked at me and responded, “OK” and I could only concur with a “sounds good”.   Well we ordered those 2,000 patches and ended up with approximately 900 patches UNSOLD! 





Trust but verify.

Be careful, some individuals will speak with such authority and then we follow “blindly” without attempting to verify the answer.  Trust but verify.


Since Dick and I were new to the Section, we relied on Jim’s judgement.  We assumed wrongly that he was speaking from direct knowledge of past orders and sales.  Now Dick and I have had many great laughs about that order of patches over the years.  I even framed one of those patches and gave it to Dick before I went to Europe.

——————————- —————————————————————————————————


Make the experts attend the same meeting.

When you have two or more experts (Engineer, Doctor, Accountant, Attorney, etc), you need to get them in the same room at the same time to review the facts and course of actions.  Then make a decision.


My Dad suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for nearly eight years.  Two years after my Dad became sick, my parents used two attorneys to do estate planning and the attorneys recommendation my parents sell all of their stocks and bonds and put them into Certificates of Deposit and Trust.  My parents invited all three kids to attend the meeting with the attorneys, but the accountant was not available on Saturday.  Then I went back to Washington DC.  Later that week my Dad had gone to his accountant, who with good intentions recommended NOT to sell ALL because of the pending tax ramifications for that year.


The attorneys were correct.  The accountant was correct.  However, 6 years later, the real implication of that split decision would be seen.  The accountant saved $10 to $20,000 in taxes.  However, a minimum of $130,000 was lost to the estate based on a look back period and NOT following the advice of the attorneys.


Countless times when I was in the military, I would make sure the right people and the right information were together in the same room.  When this cannot be done, then cross-check information between them.


It is OK if the experts do NOT agree, you need to see the short-term and long-term impacts, risk and make a decision. 



Dick and I become extremely close friends during my time as Section Adviser and continued after I moved with the USAF.  We have been to each other homes many times.  We traveled to many Scouting events in Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  He came to my promotion to Lt Col.  Dick and his wife Judy even come to visit us in Belgium when I was serving my last assignment with NATO.

Dick will go down for me as being the Greatest Professional Scouter I ever met.  He had the most amazing talent to be able to interact with the local parent of scout leader of modest means or a multi-millionaire.  One is his nicknames I gave him on the side was “Smiling Dick” because he could tell you bad news and his delivery would be so pleasant and with a big smile that it could not be so bad.  While in his 60’s he always slept in his own tent.  Even if there was a cabin or other facilities made available, Dick would pitch his one-man tent and sleep on the ground away from the activities.  He and his wife throughout the years would backpack together in the Pecos Mountains and Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.  Dick was just an amazing person and he was one of my true friends I could rely on to either just listen or give me sound advice.


Dick died 21 Oct 2012 at age 70.  Farewell my friend!




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admin On October - 1 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

Coshocton, Ohio – Jun 1983.  Throughout the night, I have been the guide for my close friend Greg.  We were at the Muskingum Valley Scout Reservation, deep in an obscure area of our council’s Boy Scout camp near Coshocton, Ohio.  We loved this camp and most of us have spent over a hundred days and nights here.  Greg has just finished his Vigil to become designed “Vigil Honor” in the Order of the Arrow.  It is early dawn at the final ceremony.  In the dew covered meadow under a 50 foot cliff, an Indian Chief emerges and meets Greg.  Circled waiting for Greg are about 12 Vigil Honor members to welcome him to a select few, honored for their unselfish service to others.  At the end of the ceremony, the Native Indian (Delaware) name selected for Greg is revealed to him for the first time.  From this time forward you should be known as “Mamchachwelendan”, meaning “He Who Endures Pain”.  This was the 25th of June, 1983.


Tom Durbin, Greg Miller, Ed LaBenne, and Pat Durbin the night Greg’s was presented his Eagle Scout on 26 Apr 1985.


Columbus, Ohio – 1982.  Just the year before, I was in the waiting room of Riverside Hospital in Columbus.  Tom Durbin and I were in the waiting room with Greg’s Mom and older brother.  Greg was in the recovery room after surgery for cancer and the removal of a large brain tumor.  The first person to go visit him in the recovery room was his Mom.  I was actually surprised, when she came out, she asked Tom and me to go in next.  It was the first time I saw such a thing.  After he recovered, he spent months going through radiation treatments and lost all of his hair.  I remember being at his house and there was long strands of hair in the waste cans his rooms upstairs, 6 to 7 inches long, falling out from the roots.  The cancer finally went into submission.  Every six months Greg would go through tests to see if the cancer returned.  It was always a relief after negative results came back.  Nearly eight years went by and then the cancer came back with a vengeance.


Blytheville, Arkansas – Apr 1991.  It was a Sunday night and my Mom called me:  “They are praying for Greg at Mass.  He is very sick again.”  I called Greg, and asked him what is going on.  He confirmed he has cancer again and it did not look good.  I told him I wanted to come home to visit him, but I was scheduled to deploy to Diego Garcia and could not take leave.  Greg joked, that he would wait for me to come home and that he was a hard to kill.  We laugh and prayed on the phone.  I told him to wait for me as I was going to come see him when I returned home.



Diego Garcia, BIOT – 21 Apr- 7 Nov 1991.  During my deployment, I would attend Mass several times a week and on Friday night after Mass, we had a very nice prayer group of about 20 people.  Every Friday I would pray for Greg and I would pray specifically for him to live long enough for me to see him again.  After four months of praying for his life, I prayed for the first time that Greg would die.  For on this Friday night I had a feeling that Greg had suffered so much and his pain so great, that the Lord should take him home.  So out loud in front of the entire group, I prayed for God to take home Greg and end his suffering.


The next morning, I had a phone call.  It was extremely difficult to call in those days and Diego Garcia was so isolated.  To this day, I do not know how I got the call from my family.  It was notification that Greg had just died.  I was devastated and I cried like a baby.  I was full of guilt for just having prayed for him to die only a few hours earlier.  I wanted a few hours so that I could call Greg’s Mom.  I would have to use “Cable and Wireless”, which we called “Cable and Heartless” as it cost $4 per minute to call the United States.  I finally reached Mrs. Miller and we talked.  I started crying and I told her I am so sorry.  I told her I prayed for Greg to die last night.  She quickly took charge of the conversation and told me:  “It is OK Ed.  Greg was in such great pain.  He was under heavy medication and he was having so much difficulty, I prayed for him to die too. It is OK, you did the right thing.” 


I wrote several times to Greg during my deployment.  Mrs. Miller explained to me she asked Greg to write me back many times, but he was unable to write.   She told him she would transcribe the letter for him, he only needed to tell her.  Ironically, without her knowledge, Greg did in fact send me a letter (the letter is attached below).  Greg had typed the letter and mail it to my deployed location 30 days before he died.  I was happy to tell her, that Greg did send me a letter!



Mount Vernon, Ohio – Dec 1991.   When I finally returned to my home town.  I went to visit Mrs. Miller and talk to her.  Together we went to visit Greg grave site and then went back to her house.





She thanked me for my help with Greg, including to push him to finish his Eagle Scout and being a very good friend to him.  Greg and I had both been in Troop 332 and very involved in our Catholic youth group, both sponsored by St Vincent de Paul Parish in Mount Vernon, Ohio.  See had two boxes of all of Greg’s Boy Scout belongings and offered them to me.  She told me, Greg wanted you to have these.  Well, I thought about it and then offered to select a few items that were SPECIAL to Greg and I would frame them.  I gave his Mom the patches and frame to her.


At the time, I was a Scoutmaster for Troop 97, in Blytheville, Arkansas.  When one scout, Richard Nace was presented his Eagle Scout, he also would be given the Eagle Scout medal of his great Uncle.  Any Eagle Scout from the 1920’s.  I told Mrs Miller, that we should frame Greg’s Eagle and one day maybe it could be passed down within the family to one of his nephews or cousins.  She agreed.



I never remember Greg ever complaining or feeling sorry for himself during all the years I knew him.  Two times he fought cancer, but in the end, he would find eternal peace.  I often think about Greg and I am thankful he was my friend.


Farewell my friend, “He Who Endured Pain”.


Gregory Dion Miller

Vigil on 25 June 1983

Indian Name:  Mamchachwelendan

Translation:  He Who Endures Pain

Born 23 Oct 1966

Died 30 Aug 1991


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admin On June - 18 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

I was the Scoutmaster of Troop 97, Blytheville Air Force Base, Arkansas 1988 to 1991.  I started with 5 boys and we grew to over 40 scouts.  Every month for over 3 years we camped at least 1 time, only missing the weekend that Saddam invaded Kuwait.  We went to seven states to camp, often in a big Blue Air Force bus and ton and half truck for the gear.

We traveled 1 to 2 hours and up to 7 hours when we went to the Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.   We would stop from time to time for bathroom break and of course for snacks.  I found out unregulated, you would have boys spending $5 to $10 on junk food.  It was crazy.  There were always be 3 or more boys that had NO money.  Something that I personally felt I needed to privately address.

It did not take long and I implemented the $1 Rule.  Any boy could get a drink, chips and/or candy, whatever you want for $1.  Only $1.  To ensure 40 boys would follow instructions, the Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) or his assistant would be at the cash register directing the affair.  If a regular customer came, the SPL would invite them to jump the line.

I  would make sure every boy had $1, even if it meant coming from our own pocket (other adult leaders were generous as well).   The $1 bill would be discreetly given.  It was my form of wealth redistribution.  LOL.

When my time had come to leave Blytheville, I would given many gifts, but the one that I remember and kept until this day is the $1 bill framed by Morgan Montgomery.  “Mr. LaBenne, I know I owe you more then $1, but I want you to have this one ($1) for always giving me so many $1.”

We both had a good laugh.

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admin On June - 9 - 2012ADD COMMENTS

My greatest positive influence while growing up was my involvement in the Boy Scouts.  I earned the rank of Eagle Scout and it was presented to me in a ceremony in my hometown, Mount Vernon, Ohio, when I was 16 years old.  The first Eagle Scout medal was awarded in 1912 (100 hundred years ago) to ArthurRoseEldred, a 17-year-old member of Troop 1 of Rockville Centre, Long Island, New York.  Over the years, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than 2 million young men.  Of 100 hundred boys who join Scouting, only 3 will became an Eagle Scout.



A tradition during the ceremony is to give the newest Eagle Scout a Charge (or Challenge).  I asked Mr. John M. Miller, one of our Troop 332 Committee members to give me my Charge.  Over the years, Mr. Miller actually presented several Charges, each one was personally written for the young man.  Below is my Charge.  The photo was from my ceremony, Mr Miller is at the podium giving me my Charge.




Edgar John LaBenne





It’s knowledge, skill and dedication that keeps a great ship sailing safely over the trackless oceans to a safe harbour.  The master of that ship likely started as a small boy, sailing his cat boat on a small lake. With increasing age, his growing enthusiasm for the sea lead him to seek further knowledge in navigation, meteorology, seamanship – all the sciences related to his life’s ambition.  Then came years of apprenticeship, while he practiced his skills.  Finally, he becomes the master of a great ship in his own right.


Mister LaBenne, you are like a great ship.  There is no other vessel quite like yours.  Soon, you are to be in sole charge of your destiny.  These really awesome responsibilities come early in our life.  Our preparation is rushed opportunity to practice our skills is limited, we’re launched into Manhood before some of us are really to hoist sail.


Mister LaBenne, you have blessed with exceptional parents.  They have made great effort to see that you are well prepared for your Voyage.


Mister LaBenne, you are an exceptional person.  You have responded with enthusiasm to your parents wise counsel.  And further, you have shown commendable initiative in seeking and discharging increasing responsibilities.


Now Mister LaBenne, your ship is being provisioned for the Voyage of Life.  Soon you will cast off, glide down the harbour, past the lighthouse and out onto the High Seas, to encounter the vicissitudes of life. Yes,  you will becalmed, drifting aimlessly, filled with doubts.  Other times storms will beset you, some of which you will sail through.  Others you will recognize as being too powerful.  You must prudently change course, lest your ship be wrecked.  And yes, there will be times of fair seas and favorable winds.


Mister LaBenne, you need not sail this sea alone!   Christ will sail with you, if you but invite Him.  And this my charge to you, that never in your life do you think a thought,  say a word or do a deed,  without first reflecting,  “Would He do it this way?”


So, sail on Mister LaBenne.  You have charted a good course.  Hold her steady as she goes.  You’ll weather the storm; you’ll stay clear of the rocks;  you’ll not founder on a reef.  Then, at the end of your Voyage, you’ll happily enter the snug harbour God has prepared for those who love him! Bon Voyage!



Saturday, the seventh day of March

Nineteen hundred and eighty-one

St Vincent de Paul School Gym

Mt Vernon, Ohio   7:30 PM


Written and delivered by John M. Miller



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