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"It's who I am": Scout embraces his Eagle identity

Troop 200 awards Alex Putkovich his Eagle Scout badge during an unpredictable Eagle Court of Honor
Augustine Iacopelli congratulates Alex Putkovich

Augustine Iacopelli congratulates Alex Putkovich /Mary Vernum

Alex Putkovich presents Michael Putkovich with his Eagle Scout Mentor Pin

Alex Putkovich presents Michael Putkovich with his Eagle Scout Mentor Pin /Mary Vernum

Alex Putkovich and fellow Scouts

Alex Putkovich and fellow Scouts /Mary Vernum

Midway through his Eagle Scout speech at his Eagle Court of Honor Saturday, Alex Putkovich did the unexpected: He removed the Eagle Scout neckerchief, badge and medal he had been awarded just minutes earlier.

But the 17-year-old Catholic Central High School junior then clarified that his action was not a repudiation, but rather an embracing of his identity as one who has attained Scouting’s highest rank.

“Even without my neckerchief, even without my badge, even without my medal, I’m still an Eagle Scout,” he told the audience assembled at the Boy Scouts of America Gerald R. Ford Council headquarters.  “It’s more than just a rank--it’s my lifestyle now. It’s who I am.”

Although Alex affirmed his Eagle identity in an unusual way, his adult Scout leaders thought his message consistent with the goals and ideals to which he has aspired  throughout his Scouting journey.

Augustine Iacopelli, Alex’s first Scoutmaster at BSA Troop 200 in Grand Rapids, said Alex’s words show he understands that being an Eagle Scout means exemplifying the most important values of Scouting.

“I always hope [new Eagle Scouts] would embrace the true meaning of what a true Eagle Scout is,” Iacopelli said after the ceremony. “It is a part of their being now.”

Dan Erickson, Troop 200's current Scoutmaster, observed that Alex has exemplified being helpful, one of the points of the Scout Law.

"He has a gentle [way of] guiding to help bring people along," Erickson said.

Erickson specifically remembered how Alex reached out to his own son, Alex Erickson, Troop 200's Senior Patrol Leader, when they were on the same eighth-grade baseball team and Alex Erickson was new to the sport.

Troop 200 adult leader Mike Haley emphasized the consistency that characterized Alex’s path to Eagle Scout.

“He was committed to getting there, and he made steady progress,” Haley said. “He was always there, always involved on a weekly basis.”

Alex’s seemingly predictable nature made even more unexpected  his decision to have his ceremony include a surprising interruption.

While Alex was preparing to say his Eagle Scout pledge, Christopher Quiroz, an Eagle Scout and Troop 200 alumnus, challenged Alex's Eagle Scout qualifications. 

During his challenge, Quiroz questioned if Alex has lived and acted “in accordance with the ideals of Scouting, as exemplified by the Scout Oath, Law, motto and slogan.”

Quiroz’s challenge was answered by adult Scout leader Caryn Rossi’s affirmation that Alex has in fact “held to the spirit of Scouting in his daily living.”  Quiroz replied he was still not satisfied, insisting that Alex be instructed about the responsibilities of being an Eagle Scout before the ceremony be completed. 

Quiroz and three other Eagle Scouts then presented the main responsibilities of an Eagle Scout, emphasizing honor, loyalty, courage and service.

Pat Schemmel, who served as Alex’s Scoutmaster for four years, was in the process of charging Alex to say his Eagle Scout pledge when the interruption took place. She expressed surprise and some amusement that Alex chose to include the interruption in his Eagle Court of Honor.

"Alex was one of those quiet, stoic Scouts," she said after the ceremony. "He didn't make any great waves one way or another. . . . I would've expected someone with more drama in his life to choose that event." 

During the ceremony, Alex awarded each of his parents, Michael and Lisa Putkovich, with an Eagle Scout Parent Pin. 

Later in the ceremony, Alex awarded his Eagle Scout Mentor Pin to Michael Putkovich, who has served as an adult Scout leader throughout Alex's 10-year journey through Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

"Every step of my journey, my dad was always there for me," Alex said after the ceremony, "even when I didn't ask for help, even when I didn't think I needed that extra drive to push me to where I am."

A moved Michael Putkovich noted after the ceremony that the Mentor Pin represents a culmination of his 15 years as an adult Scout leader.

"To be recognized as a mentor is a very humbling experience," he said.

And as the court's reception wound down, Lisa Putkovich offered her reflections on her son's path to Eagle.

"From the very beginning in Cub Scouts, Alex really owned this journey," she said. "He took it on as his own commitment."

"I'm proud of him," she continued, "and I look forward to seeing what comes after this."

Alex is a member of the Order of the Arrow, Scouting's honor society. For his Eagle Project, he planned and directed construction of two garden arbors and a bench seat for the Native Plant Education Garden at the Izaak Walton Conservation League in Belmont, Mich. He is a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, which sponsors Troop 200.

At Catholic Central, Alex is a member of the National Honor Society, plays on the rugby club, sings in the capella choir and serves in the peer ministry program.

He hopes to pursue a career in medicine.

 

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