Scoutmaster celebrates milestone

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Dozens of Scouts and volunteers surprised Kevin Coleman, Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 681, with a standing ovation at St. James School in Falls Church Jan. 5. They were throwing him a party to celebrate a milestone in his 20-year tenure: his 100th Eagle Scout.

"I was very surprised. I was supposed to be going to a PTA meeting," Coleman said. "It's great to see all the kids that I worked with that have made it to Eagle Scouts. And now they are young men."

Coleman, 63, has been serving as Troop 681 Scoutmaster since 1993, completing more than a dozen 50-miler trips that included bicycling, backpacking and canoeing. He also mentored his troop during ski trips, camps and other activities that taught them to be better citizens while having fun.

The young men that he mentored, as well as parents and Scout dignitaries, came to recognize his dedication, effort and support.

"I love Scouting; it's really shaped who I am," said Robert May, Coleman's 100th Eagle Scout.

His father, Scott May, said that Scouting has been teaching his two sons about being responsible and supportive in their community. "Kevin's leadership and his patiently working with all the boys - channeling them to find their way to where they want to be in their own time - it's just been phenomenal," he said. "We are blessed that we ended up in St. James Parish and being a part of Troop 681."

Richard Lobb, former chairman of the troop committee, said that they have wanted to celebrate Coleman after he reached his 100th Eagle Scout last November - an impressive feat considering that only approximately 5 percent of Scouts reach that rank.

The committee members and former Scouts were not the only ones thankful for Coleman's service. At the celebration, organizers read a proclamation from Nader Baroukh, the mayor of Falls Church, declaring that Sunday (Jan. 5, 2014) was "Kevin Coleman's Day."

Coleman thanked all the people who help the troop and his wife, Kathy, for supporting his "hobby." Then, he quickly asked all leaders to stand up and be recognized.

"It's not me, it's never been me," he said. "It is the adult leadership of this group, the chairman, members, Scoutmasters, who time after time make it so that not a weekend goes by without an activity."

Eagle Scouts shared anecdotes of their time in the troop, calling Coleman "fearless" and making people laugh by recalling a time when Coleman's way of calling a room into silence (by throwing a chair in the middle of the room) was similar to "the drop of Thor's hammer."

Other Eagle Scouts said Coleman's dedication was an example to emulate and that it was through the principles of the Boy Scouts that they had been able to find their way in life.

At the celebration, people also remembered the "Viking patrol," a troop of 11 rowdy kids who, against all predictions, attained Eagle ranking in 2008, a feat that landed their story on the front page of The Washington Post.

In the article, Scout leaders remembered the Vikings "acting like Cub Scouts and babies" and Coleman was quoted telling how the group just sat down during their first 3-mile hike claiming that they were "on strike." But through perseverance and hard work, the 11 - including one of Coleman's sons, Daniel - helped each other to grow and advance in the ranks.

To graduate from the program as an Eagle, Scouts need to earn 21 merit badges, live by the principles of the organization, have a position of responsibility, go to a Scouting conference and complete a service project.

Thanking Coleman for his guidance, one of the patrol members reminded him that "one of every nine of his Eagles is a (Viking) misfit."

Adult leaders talked about how Coleman's leadership style and frank advice inspired them to do what was best for the Scouts.

"We allow these young men to become leaders and it is by their own peer pressure, by their own impetus," said Bob Harding, assistant Scoutmaster. "We are there for them as a safety net."

"The kids deserve all the credit. It's a boy-led troop," Coleman said. And even when this freedom can make some of the meetings appear unorthodox to outsiders, Scoutmasters know that a lot of times "taking a deep breath and letting the boys figure it out" is the best way to help them grow, he said.

Coleman also received congratulation letters from Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde; Father Patrick L. Posey, St. James pastor; the U.S. postmaster general; U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and state Sen. Richard Saslaw. In their letters, they praised him for his countless hours of service forming young men.

"It's been a blast," Coleman said of his time with the Scouts. "To all the men that helped me along the way, I sincerely appreciate it."

Negro can be reached at mnegro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @MNegroACH.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014