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Rumsfeld Receives Scouting's Highest Commendation

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2006 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld received scouting's highest honor from the Boy Scouts of America here today.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (right) receives the Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America in Washington, May 26. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"I'm very honored to accept scouting's Silver Buffalo Award," Rumsfeld said during a breakfast sponsored by the National Eagle Scout Association. "Since its earliest days, the Boy Scouts have cultivated leadership and good citizenship, a service that has been recognized since the United States Congress first chartered the Boy Scouts back in 1916."

The Silver Buffalo Award, created in 1925, is bestowed upon those who give "truly noteworthy and extraordinary" service to America's youth. Notable recipients include Charles A. Lindbergh, Norman Rockwell, Gen. Colin Powell, Walt Disney, Hank Aaron, Bob Hope, Vince Lombardi, Neil Armstrong, Charles M. Schulz and 14 U.S. presidents.

Rumsfeld became a Cub Scout in 1941 and rose to Eagle Scout in 1949. In 1975, he received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, an award that acknowledges Eagle Scouts who have distinguished themselves in business, professions and service to their country, Boy Scouts officials said.

The secretary said that outside of his Pentagon office door is a small folded American flag that Boy Scouts distribute to servicemembers.

"The flag has a little note with it that says, 'Here's a flag for your pocket, so you can always carry a bit of home.' That small flag shows that so many Americans and so many Boy Scouts recognize the importance of the duty of each members of the military," he said. "That recognition is greatly appreciated by all those in uniform."

He said tens of thousands of Scouts have gone on to join the military. "By putting on our county's uniform, they are living up to the highest ideals of the Scout oath," he said. "Our country is truly blessed to have such wonderful young people, willing to sacrifice so much for the cause of freedom."

The secretary said many people throughout the U.S. government have been Scouts. "I'm told that about half of the current members of the Congress have participated in scouting in one way or another," he said. "And 27 were Eagle Scouts."

Life is not always a "smooth, steady" upward climb, he said. Life is "filled with choices, and often one does not know the impact of a decision until a good many years later," he said.

The secretary said one of his life's important choices came when he was 12 years old and wanted to quit the Scouts. He sent a letter to his father, who was on a Navy carrier in the Pacific during World War II, saying he wanted to leave the Scouts. Rumsfeld's father sent a note back to his son telling him that is was OK for him to quit.

"After all, he said, quitting is easy," Rumsfeld said. "He said, 'You can quit one thing, and then quit another. And soon you're a quitter.' Even at age 12 I got the message. I stayed in scouting and it was one of the best decisions I've made."

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