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One troop yields six new Eagle Scouts, all friends, all seniors at Hereford High

Boy Scouts of AmericaSchoolsElementary SchoolsSteven SpielbergGerald FordNeil Armstrong

Six seniors at Hereford High School have something in common with former president Gerald Ford, director Steven Spielberg, astronaut Neil Armstrong and Walmart founder Sam Walton.

They all are Eagle Scouts.

On Jan. 7, Boy Scout Troop 1908 held an Eagle Scout Court of Honor for Stefan Armington, Brian Duffy, Jacob Meseke, Bradley Olver, Daniel Popowski and Joseph Wixted.

In one day, the six Scouts doubled the number of Eagles in the troop that formed in 2004. The troop, which meets at Camp Puh'Tok, had one Eagle in 2007, two in 2008 and three in 2009.

Having six boys attain scouting's highest rank at the same time is unusual, but these six have been doing things together ever since the sixth grade. And five of the six started in Cub Scouts together when they were at Sparks Elementary School.

"I think we're amazed all of us actually did it," said Olver, 17, of Sparks. "But we helped each other with our projects. Knowing we were all going for Eagle helped keep us going when we all got so busy. This is the pinnacle of scouting."

For every 100 Boy Scouts, only five will go on to earn scouting's highest honor of Eagle Scout, according to the Boy Scouts of America website. The process requires Scouts to be proven leaders in their troop, earn at least 21 merit badges and complete a service project that helps their local community.

These six earned a total of 192 badges, with Wixted topping the list at 54.

All requirements had to be completed before each Scout's 18th birthday.

"I think every Scout starts out wanting to become an Eagle, but the reality of it is a different thing," said Wixted, 17, whose father, Mike, is scoutmaster. "My father said trying to become an Eagle while you're a senior in high school is hard because of three fumes — car fumes, locker room fumes and perfumes. He was right, but we all made it."

But they didn't make Eagle on their own. Part of the service project requirement is to get younger Scouts involved. With most troops, that means other troop members might be asked to help with a project once a year. But the 25 Scouts in Troop 1908 had to give up weekends and summer days to help out with six projects in one year.

"We told the Scouts that this was going to be a busy year and warned them the projects would probably overlap," said scoutmaster Mike Wixted. "But the younger Scouts were good about helping."

He believes the six Eagles were committed to staying in the troop after they went to Camp Philmont in New Mexico in 2008 and hiked 100 miles in 10 days.

"You sent a boy to Philmont and got a young man back," he said. "Their confidence after that trip was amazing."

Closer to home, the six Eagles found time to make Eagle while busy with studies and activities at Hereford. They participated in everything from the band and theater group, to football and soccer. Several belong to the National Honor Society and International Thespian Society.

"I'm not surprised that all six made Eagle," said Doug Durkin, who started Troop 1908 in 2004 and was a member of the boys' Eagle Board of Review. "I'm extremely pleased and proud."

He and his sons, who made Eagle in 2007 and 2008, attended the Jan. 7 Eagle ceremony.

Group effort

Armington, 17, chose Sparks Elementary School for his Eagle project. Sparks fifth-graders study a stream that runs through the property, so he made an outdoor classroom. He cleared out brush and weeds from under a sycamore tree and built benches. He also planted two trees on a stream bank on the school property.

"It took me a year to get all the approvals and almost 20 Scouts helped with the project," he said. "I've heard the kids have already used it."

Duffy, who turned 18 just after completing his Eagle requirements, repaired and refinished benches that sit on the deck at the Monkton train station on the Bike & Hike Trail. He hauled nine benches to his Monkton home where he sanded and stained the wood and painted the metal arms and legs.

"One guy stopped me when I was loading a bench into the truck. He thought I was stealing it," he said. "It's neat when I drive by and I see people sitting in them."

Two Scouts did their Eagle projects at Bee Tree Preserve, 263 acres in Parkton that were donated to Towson Presbyterian Church in 1965. Meseke, and Popowski, both 17, did separate projects at the preserve where they had both camped as Scouts.

Meseke built eight benches from a tree that had fallen on his family's Parkton property. He put four near a fire ring at a pavilion and four more at a fire ring near shelters. He also stained 57 wooden fence posts. Some 20 troop members helped with the project.

Popowski built an 8-foot by 12-foot observation deck with a railing and bench. It overlooks a marshy area and is ideal for bird-watchers.

"Hauling 80-pound bags of concrete down that steep, rocky hill was no fun," he said. "But it turned out really nice. I wasn't 100 percent sure I'd make Eagle, but once I started on the project, I knew I could do it."

Olver helped out Oregon Ridge Nature Center's one-mile hiking trail in Cockeysville for his project. He revised a brochure describing the hiking trail and put numbers on 13 posts that corresponded to points of interest in the brochure.

Wixted picked Camp Puh'Tok in Monkton, where the troop holds its meetings, for his Eagle project. He cleared a trail to an area known as the Meditation Grove, and made and installed several wooden benches. He and other Scouts then used buckets and shovels to clear out a pond that had filled with debris.

For more information on Troop 1908, go to http://www.troop1908.scoutlander.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Boy Scouts of AmericaSchoolsElementary SchoolsSteven SpielbergGerald FordNeil Armstrong
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