Why so few streets named after Vietnam veterans?

June 11, 2011

Junior Cruz of Salt Lake City was 15 when his Eagle Scout Project honored a fallen soldier from our war in Iraq, Adam Galvez.  You can read a stirring story from The Deseret News at Adam Galvez.com.

Junior Cruz, with Cpl. Adam Galvez's parents Tony and Amy Galvez, at Adam Galvez Street in Salt Lake City

Boy Scout Junior Cruz, with Cpl. Adam Galvez's parents Tony and Amy Galvez, at Adam Galvez Street in Salt Lake City

Marines honor fallen comrade Cpl. Adam Galvez, Salt Lake City, 2007

Marines honor their fallen comrade Cpl. Adam Galvez, at the ceremony naming a street after Galvez.7

Once upon a time I might have wondered about the utility of such a project, not because naming a street after a veterans isn’t a great idea, but because the actions required for naming streets might not measure up to the usual expectations for great service in an Eagle project.  This project and the stories about it quickly dispel such worries — for example, notice that the city required Cruz to raise the $2,000 required to change the street signs, such fundraising itself a major accomplishment.  Our son James’s project at the DFW National Cemetery required similar fundraising, and got at least as much in in-kind contributions — but it was major work.

Marines at the naming of Adam Galvez Street, 2007

Marines salute at the ceremony for the naming of Adam Galvez Street, 2007

Reading the news story, I thought back to a question that has plagued me for years:  Why didn’t we have the good sense to welcome back Vietnam vets with parades, and other welcome home activities?  That was one great lesson of Vietnam I think we, as a nation, learned well.  Today national news programs, like the PBS Newshour, honor each fallen soldier in our nation’s wars.  Here in Dallas, and at other cities I suspect, there is a formal volunteer program to make sure soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan deployments get a flag-waving cheer when they get off the airplane.  Churches, schools, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts volunteer to go wave the flags and cheer the soldiers.  The volunteers may get more out of it than the soldiers, but the message is clear all the way around:  These soldier men and women served their nation, and they deserve thanks and a cheer.

Ceremony naming Adam Galvez Street, February 2007

Ceremony naming Adam Galvez Street, February 2007

Is it too late to do that for Vietnam veterans?  A chief complaint over the years, especially from the war-hungry right wing, is that the Vietnam peace movement dishonored those veterans, chiefly by not honoring them more when they came home.

My brother, Wes, served four tours in Southeast Asia in that war, returning each time to no great celebration other than his family’s great gratitude at his return.  He’s too great a patriot to complain — as are most of the other Vietnam vets.  Our periodic patriotic celebrations now do better:  Vietnam vets get honored at July 4 and Veterans’ Day celebrations, and the fallen get special honors on Memorial Day, in most towns in America.

Junior Cruz hit on a great idea, though:  Name a street in honor of the fallen.

Why not do that for more Vietnam vets?  My hometown of Pleasant Grove, Utah, had a population of fewer than 10,000 people during the Vietnam conflict, but well I remember in my high school years when the list of fallen passed 11, including a recently-graduated studentbody president and basketball star and the brother of a woman in my French class.   Neither of them has a memorial other than their gravestone, that I’m aware.

Adam Galvez Street, Salt Lake City, Utah

Adam Galvez Street, Salt Lake City, Utah

Street names can tell us a lot about a town or city.  In the great booming times of 1950s through 1990s, a lot of streets in America were named after developers’ kids, wives and ex-wives.  More recently developers have taken to cutesy names on a theme designed to sell homes:  “Whispering Waters Way,” “Mountain View,” etc.   Those cities where history gets some note in street names do well, I think.  Ogden, Utah, named a bunch of streets after presidents, in order of their service, from Washington through the second Harrison (and as a consequence, a lot of people who grew up in Ogden can name the presidents in order from Washington through almost to Teddy Roosevelt).  New York has not suffered from renaming a stretch of road The Avenue of the Americas, Washington, D.C. has done well with both Independence Avenue and Constitution Avenue.

Why not rename some streets in American after Vietnam veterans?  While we’re at it, how about Korean War veterans?  We can’t recapture the time and do what we should have done about 58 years ago for Korea or about 45 years ago for Vietnam.  We can do noble things from now, forward.  Why not create memorials that remind us of the great service these people did for their nation, and name and rename streets in their honor?


Scouts Shooting for the Moon: The story of twelve Moon walkers, and Scouting

April 30, 2011


Astronaut and 2nd Class Boy Scout Eugene Cernan saluted the U.S. flag on the Moon, on the last Apollo mission, Apollo 17. Photography by Astronaut and Tenderfoot Scout Harrison Schmitt. NASA image.

A short piece I presented this morning to the Tom Harbin Scout Museum Symposium on Scout History, a great morning organized by Bob Reitz, the curator of the Tom Harbin Scout Museum at Camp Wisdom, in Dallas, Texas. Of course the material is copyrighted, but by all means you have permission to use the material at Courts of Honor or in recounting the better history of Boy Scouting.

Scouts Shooting for the Moon:  The story of twelve Moon walkers, and Scouting

This is a recreation with modern numbers of a presentation first used a decade ago. Searching for material for a speech to honor Eagles at our District Dinner, several people suggested in a short period of time, ‘Why not talk about the astronauts who landed on the Moon. I hear they were all Eagle Scouts.’  Was that accurate?  It would have been a good story if so. Research revealed something quite different. The true story can carry just as much inspiration, however. Scouting is shown to be a program that can lead to a lifetime of adventure and accomplishment. Also, Eagles may take some inspiration in knowing they have accomplished something most of the men who walked on the Moon did not.

Speakers constantly need good material for Eagle Scout Courts of Honor and other events honoring Scouts and Scouters. For one event honoring a group of new Eagle Scouts, several people urged that I research the facts behind the story they had heard, that most, or all of the men who walked on the Moon were Eagle Scouts. New Eagles would find comfort in knowing they had soared into the midst of such company, they reasoned.

So it came to pass that, before the advent of Wikipedia and Google, I spent hours on the telephone until a press person at NASA pointed out to me a collection of information on astronauts that NASA had thoughtfully put on-line. At some high cost I printed out the few pages that dealt with the Scouting experience of astronauts, and worked to correlate it with information about which of them had gone to the moon, and which had not.

Anyone can find that book online with ease, today. The NASA Astronaut Fact Book provides information on almost every detail about NASA’s crew of astronauts, past and present. It includes one-and-a-half pages on the Scouting background of people working as astronauts and payload specialists for NASA, and others NASA has launched into manned missions. Cross-indexing that information with lists of Apollo Mission astronauts, I created four short tables showing the Apollo astronauts who went to the Moon, their missions, and the Scout rank they achieved, if any.

Lunar Astronauts and Scouting Experience

Twelve Moon Walkers

Name Mission Dates on the Moon Scout Rank
1 Neil Armstrong Apollo 11 July 21, 1969 Eagle Scout
2 Buzz Aldrin Apollo 11 July 21, 1969 Tenderfoot Scout
3 Pete Conrad Apollo 12 November 19-20, 1969 Cub Scout
4 Alan Bean Apollo 12 November 19-20, 1969 1st Class
5 Alan Shepard Apollo 14 February 5-6, 1971 1st Class
6 Edgar Mitchell Apollo 14 February 5-6, 1971 Life Scout
7 David Scott Apollo 15 July 31-August 2, 1971 Life Scout
8 James Irwin Apollo 15 July 31-August 2, 1971 None
9 John Young Apollo 16 April 21-23, 1972 2nd Class
10 Charles Duke Apollo 16 April 21-23, 1972 Eagle Scout
11 Eugene Cernan Apollo 17 December 11-14, 1972 2nd Class
12 Harrison Schmitt Apollo 17 December 11-14, 1972 Tenderfoot Scout

Apollo 13

Name Mission Dates on the Moon Scout Rank
1 Jim Lovell Apollo 13 Lunar Swingby Eagle Scout
2 Jack Swigert Apollo 13 Lunar Swingby 2nd Class
3 Fred Haise Apollo 13 Lunar Swingby Star

Lunar Missions That Did Not Land

Name Mission Dates on the Moon Scout Rank
1 Frank Borman Apollo 8 Orbited only None
2 Jim Lovell Apollo 8 (&13) Orbited only Eagle Scout
3 William Anders Apollo 8 Orbited only Life Scout
4 Tom Stafford Apollo 10 Orbited only Star Scout
5 John Young Apollo 10 (& 16) Orbited only 2nd Class
6 Eugene Cernan Apollo 10 (& 17) Orbited only 2nd Class

Others Who Did Not Land

Name Mission Dates on the Moon Scout Rank
1 Michael Collins Apollo 11 Capsule pilot None
2 Dick Gordon Apollo 12 Capsule pilot Star Scout
3 Stewart Roosa Apollo 14 Capsule pilot None
4 Al Worden Apollo 15 Capsule pilot 1st Class
5 Ken Mattingly Apollo 16 Capsule pilot Life Scout
6 Ronald Evans Apollo 17 Capsule pilot Life Scout

In all, 24 men flew to the Moon. Twelve set foot on the lunar surface. Of the twelve, eleven were Scouts, two were Eagles. Of the 24, 20 were Scouts, three were Eagles.

At the time I originally researched, about 70% of all astronauts were alumni of Scouting, men and women. Officially, BSA lists 181 NASA astronauts as being alumni, 57.4%

NASA lists the colleges and universities astronauts attended. NASA lists military service, hometowns, and states of birth. But with the possible exception of a generic category of “public schools,” no category of astronauts is larger than the category of Scouting experience. If we were advising a young person on how to get to become an astronaut, we would be remiss if we did not advise him or her to join Scouting.

What can we conclude?

Three things became apparent to me in tracking these figures down. One, I learned once again that the true stories most often carry great value, more value than the stories people make up, or assume.

Two, I learned that Scouting by itself carries great value, without a Scout’s having earned Eagle. We know that not all the Moon walkers earned the Eagle rank. But we also notice that no flight ever went to the Moon without at least two Scouts aboard. Three of the 24 lunar voyagers are Eagles, 12.5%. Two of the dozen who actually set foot on the Moon are Eagles, 16.7%. Eleven of the twelve Moon walkers were Scouts, 91.7%. 21 of 24 lunar voyagers were Scouts, 87.5%.

So, while it was not necessary to be an Eagle, it certainly seemed to help. But simply having Scouting experience seemed to be the biggest help. There may be some magic in a boy’s having taken that oath that carries through his entire life, and spurs him to do daring and great things. That is important. A trend begins to emerge. Scouting by itself, without earning the highest rank, provides great value. When a boy signs up, he signs on for the adventure of a lifetime, and often that leads to a lifetime of adventure. That venturesome spirit carries on well past his Scouting years.

The story of Jim Lovell might carry some great weight with Scouts. Lovell is the only person to have gone to the Moon twice, but never set foot on it. He was the commander of Apollo 13, whose near-disaster was chronicled in the movie of the same name. Among other lessons that might be pulled out of the story:  When your Moon-bound spaceship explodes and loses power on the way to the Moon, it is often good to have an Eagle Scout handy to help get through the experience and return safely.

Is there inspiration here?

When I first presented these figures at a Scout meeting, a parent asked me whether these numbers would discourage boys from working for any rank advancement, since just being a Scout seems to carry such weight. This should not discourage Eagles, nor discourage any Scout from working to get the Eagle rank. We should look at it this way:  Every Scout who earns an Eagle has done what ten of the twelve who walked on the Moon did not do, perhaps could not do. Nine more Moon walkers started on that path to Eagle, but did not finish, or could not finish.

Not every Eagle can go to the Moon, but every Eagle has already won an award that most of those who did go to the Moon wish they had.

Especially in the circles of corporate and government leadership, character, what it is and how to get it, concerns people. What sort of character does it take to go to the Moon? Every Scout has a glimpse of what is required, and every Eagle can say, “I know what it takes to get such character.”


Human Spaceflight, “The Apollo Program,” NASA, July 2, 2009; accessed April 28, 2011; http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/history/apollo/

Astronaut Fact Book, NASA,  NP-2005-01-001JSC, January 2005; accessed April 27, 2011; spaceflight.nasa.gov/spacenews/factsheets/pdfs/astro.pdf

BSA, “Facts About Scouting,” 2009; accessed April 28, 2011; http://www.scouting.org/about/factsheets/scoutingfacts.aspx

“Astronauts With Scouting Experience,” Eagle Scout Information, U.S. Scouting Service Project, April 6, 2011; accessed April 29, 2011; http://www.usscouts.org/eagle/eagleastronauts.asp

About the author:

Ed Darrell teaches U.S. History at Moises E. Molina High School in Dallas. He has taught economics, government, world history and street law in high schools; he also taught at the University of Utah, University of Arizona, and DeVry University. He is a former speech writer for politicians. His degree in Mass Communication came from the University of Utah, and his law degree from George Washington University. This was presented to the Jack Harbin Museum Symposium of Scout History, April 30, 2011.

World Scout badge carried to the Moon by Astronaut Neil Armstrong.

World Scout badge carried to the Moon by Astronaut Neil Armstrong.



Two million Eagle Scouts

June 18, 2009

Without editing, here’s the press release from Boy Scouts of America:

Minnesota Teen Named 2 Millionth Eagle Scout

Anthony Thomas to Represent 97 Years of Scouting Tradition and Honor, Serve as Youth Representative at BSA 100th Anniversary Events

Eagle Scout Anthony Thomas, Lakeville, Minn.

MINNEAPOLIS – June 17, 2009 – To describe one Minnesota teenager as “one in a million” is an understatement – by half. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) today announced that Anthony Thomas, 16, of Lakeville, Minn., has been named the 2 millionth Eagle Scout since the first Eagle badge was awarded in 1912.

Eagle Scout is the highest attainable rank in Boy Scouting and requires years of dedication and hard work. Scouts must demonstrate proficiency in leadership, service, and outdoor skills at multiple levels before achieving the Eagle rank. Fewer than 5 percent of Boy Scouts earn the Eagle badge.

Anthony, who will be a junior at Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, Minn., has been involved in Scouting since age 7. A member of the Northern Star Council’s Troop 471 at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, Minn., he credits Scouting for his love of the outdoors and commitment to service. Adopted from Korea, Anthony volunteers as a counselor to Korean adoptees at Camp Choson. He also is active in his church and recently lettered in Service at his school. Anthony will spend part of his summer in New Orleans to help with ongoing cleanup work from Hurricane Katrina.

“Anthony represents everything that the Eagle badge stands for: character, integrity, leadership, and service to others,” said Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive, Boy Scouts of America. “It is fitting that we honor the 2 millionth Eagle as we prepare to celebrate 100 years of service to the nation.”

As the 2 millionth Eagle Scout, Anthony will serve as a youth ambassador for Scouting by participating in upcoming BSA’s 100th Anniversary events such as the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.; the BSA’s annual Report to the Nation in Washington, D.C.; and the National Scout Jamboree in 2010.

“I’m honored and humbled to be selected as the 2 millionth Eagle Scout,” Anthony said. “The Eagle rank represents excellence and leadership at every stage of life, and I will do my best to honor those Eagles who have come before me and to encourage other Scouts to pursue the Eagle Award.”

In addition to the 21 merit badges required to earn Eagle rank, each Scout must complete an extensive service project that he plans, organizes, leads, and manages before his 18th birthday. For his project, Anthony designed and constructed devices to help train service dogs for Helping Paws of Minnesota, which provides dogs for disabled persons to further their independence. A key component of his project was to raise awareness for the organization and its mission. He accomplished this by arranging a service dog demonstration for his troop and coordinating a kick-off drive to encourage his fellow Scouts to earn their Disabilities Awareness merit badge.

Anthony’s parents, Jim and Cheryl Thomas, are active Scouting volunteers. Anthony also has a younger sister, Allison. In addition to Scouting, Anthony enjoys snowboarding, track, soccer, and playing the guitar.

“The fellowship of Eagles celebrates the milestone of the 2 millionth Eagle Scout,” said Glenn Adams, president of the National Eagle Scout Association. “Each Eagle represents a life of service to others and to the communities where Eagles live and work. We congratulate Anthony Thomas and look forward to working with him to help encourage other Scouts to pursue their Eagle.”

About the Boy Scouts of America
Serving nearly 4.1 million young people between the ages of 7 and 20 with more than 300 local councils throughout the United States and its territories, the Boy Scouts of America is the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. For more information on the Boy Scouts of America, please visit www.scouting.org.


Facts about Eagle Scouts

  • The first Eagle badge was awarded in 1912.
  • Fewer than 5 percent of all Boy Scouts earn the Eagle rank.
  • The 1 millionth Eagle Scout milestone was reached in 1982.
  • In 2008, a record-high 52,025 Scouts earned the Eagle badge.
  • In 2008, Eagle Scout service projects provided $16 million in service to communities across the nation (based on national volunteer hour value of $19.51).

  • Boy Scouts honor Gerald Ford (from archives)

    April 13, 2009

    I found this photo on the archived White House website; a marvelous shot of more than 120 Boy Scouts in the National Cathedral during the state funeral of President Gerald Ford.  Ford requested that Eagle Scouts turn out to pay their respects and support him in his final journey; at every stage of his funeral journey, Eagle Scouts saluted Ford, himself an Eagle Scout and the first to serve as president.

    Caption from the White House website (now archived):   Boy Scouts attending the State Funeral service for former President Gerald R. Ford at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., salute his casket as it leaves the cathedral, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007. White House photo by David Bohrer.  Photo in the public domain

    Caption from the White House website (now archived): Boy Scouts attending the State Funeral service for former President Gerald R. Ford at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., salute his casket as it leaves the cathedral, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007. White House photo by David Bohrer. Photo in the public domain

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