PUYALLUP, Wash. — A Puyallup man waited 60 years to finally get official recognition as an Eagle Scout.
At age 75, Sam Jones is actually among a select group of older men who had their Eagles pinned on them later in life. Jones says the moment that happened within the last few weeks is a moment he’s waited for his entire life.
He sat down with KIRO 7′s Ranji Sinha to give more detail and background on what led up to this and why his story with scouting evolved over decades.
“Do I stand or do I sit here? I decided to stand,” were some of the first words that Sam Jones said in his sit-down with KIRO 7. He was describing the moment at a recent Boy Scouts fundraiser in Puyallup when he revealed himself to be an Eagle Scout. It’s something that Jones has weighed in his mind almost his entire life and his decision to identify himself as an Eagle came with some unique circumstances.
The moment was 60 years in the making, and the story goes all the way back to when Jones was member of Boy Scout Troop 147 in Rochester, NY, circa 1958 to 1962. At that time, Jones had earned his way all the way toward an Eagle but he never had a Court of Honor to obtain that Eagle pin.
“They said that my family did not represent the model family,” said Jones.
Jones said a sponsor of his Rochester troop did not want his single working mother from the housing projects of Rochester as the picture presented to the community of an Eagle Scout family.
“I, at that moment, couldn’t deny what they are saying. I could not deny what my mother was going through to get me in scouting,” said Jone.
Jones said he loved being in the Boy Scouts at that age and that it taught him life lessons. His own mother approved him being part of the Scouts but when Sam did not obtain his Eagle pin, the pain was too much to bear and he did not tell his mother.
“So I bottled it, I took it in, I’m not going to have my mother feeling bad about this,” he said.
Sam Jones did come from a single-parent home where his mother worked two full-time jobs. His mother was determined to buy them a home and get out of housing projects where they lived in the city. Jones also says he never knew his father and met him only once.
While his mother worked, Sam also admitted that he had responsibility for taking care of his younger brother, David. Sam Jones made sure he watched his brother and also made sure he was fed and doing all of his schoolwork.
“We never went on vacation as my mother was determined to pull us out of the projects. The Boy Scouts gave me the opportunity to achieve my dreams and complimented my mother’s mandate that ‘We (Jones’ immediate family) were going to make it through discipline, grit, and hand work.’”
Jones admits he lost out on the honor that usually goes to boys who’ve achieved Eagle Status, but never truly lost one key feeling.
“My love of scouting did not die!”
Jones attended the University of Michigan, served in Vietnam, and continued to serve his country living a life that he described as true to the ideals of the Scouts.
“To keep myself physically strong, as you see, mentally awake continually, and morally straight with a plum mind for life, said Jones.
Settling in Puyallup, Jones was asked for years by a parishioner at his church to work with Scouts. Many times, Jones refused to help but that did not stop his fellow church member from asking.
The last straw came, according to Jones, when he was asked to attend a local fundraiser for the Boy Scouts, “to get him off my back literally I told him I’ll go …”said Jones.
At the fundraiser, Jones says a story about NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong changed him. A chaplain attending the fundraiser described a story of visiting the home of the first person to set foot on the moon and said one of Armstrong’s most prominent home decorations was his Eagle Scout Pin. While sharing the story, the chaplain asked for Eagle Scouts at the fundraiser to stand, and Jones stood.
“I’m proud to be an Eagle because it says you are learning well, you are doing well, you have done well and I’m OK with that.”
Jones knew he had made Eagle decades ago in Rochester, and also knew there could be records of it happening, but he admitted that he also knew something else: “I can’t prove it!”
Jones says his fellow church member took it upon himself — without any prompting or request — to find Jones’ records in Scouting. When that parishioner did end up getting the info, he simply handed it to a dumbfounded Jones: “He comes up and says, ‘Here is your proof.’”
That simple record finally lead to Jones getting his Court of Honor with the Pacific Harbours Council of the Boy Scouts. Many of Sam’s fellow troop members did not live to see it happen. Cindy Jones, who also spoke to KIRO 7 alongside her husband Sam, said it is an honor he shared with his fellow troop members.
“I just really admire and wish they could be a part of this. It would be really cool — this has just been a marvel — surreal,” she said.
Cindy Jones says obtaining the Eagle is not justice but something else: “You know, it’s completion.”
Sam Jones says his entire course in life was set by Boy Scouts. In a case he keeps in his entry hall at his Puyallup home, he keeps his ceremonial swords from his naval service. He also has an Eagle pin from his era in scouting pinned in between them. Jones found the pin at some point and kept it as a reminder to him that he did obtain the Eagle pin even if he did get the Court of Honor ceremony. Now he says he will keep his true Eagle pin, the one bestowed to him at age 75, in that very case. It will be as prominent in his home as it probably is in the home of Neil Armstrong.
Sam Jones says the whole odyssey of obtaining his Eagle Scout honorific has taught him valuable lessons, even at his age.
“No matter what the challenge, I say out of the wreck I rise… on my honor, I’ll do my best, do my duty to God and my country, and obey the Scout laws.”
“This will not make up all the lost years this Eagle Scout felt,” said Mark Crawford, President of the Pacific Harbors Council (PHC). “It was inexcusable and insensitive to do this to a young person who learned so much from scouting and used it as motivation to achieve an honorable and useful life serving his country and his community… By any measure, Sam is a role model for today’s Scouts in the PHC.”
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