From his personal archives, Ralph shares this story from fourteen years ago:
I wore my uniform to work today. It had been a while since I had worn my field uniform to the office, and then out into the community. I wasn’t sure who I was going to see or meet, but on this day, September 11, 2002, it felt like the moment was right for me to be in uniform and be seen in it.
When I arrived at the office, I could tell that there were others that were glad they were in field uniform as well. Many others were paying their respects to those that lost their lives a year ago, by the attire they had chosen. My assistant Annette adorned her long ponytail with three simple scrunchies. One red. One white. One blue. In big letters across her T-shirt were the words “Boy Scouts of America.” She had a smile in her heart, knowing that she is a long time tiger leader, yet having no kids of her own in the program. My Scout Executive Ron looked so at home in his uniform. He could be a banker or a college president, but instead he, and many others like him, have chosen a life as a servant of youth. Ahhh, to be in the woods with a pack on my back, the wind through the trees, a group of Scouts at my side and a day seeking adventure.
My woods and adventures this day were in the city of Hillsboro, with a young district executive named Justin. As we cold called on the youth pastors of churches that already have Scouting and others that should join our family, I was amazed by the behavior of the drivers around me. No one cut me or others around me off. Everyone used their turn signals and politely went about their way. It seems that others were in thought about what this day means to them as well.
We stopped at about a dozen churches and spoke to the pastor or youth pastor of three of them. At all three, we were embraced with open arms. Open arms is an understatement. Three for three new prospective chartering organizations wanted to participate in Scouting, most wondering how this resource of Scouting could have slipped by their notice so quietly. As we were about to enter one church school, a carload of young people drove by and made a point of waving. Not a wave of “look at the funny Boy Scouts”, but a friendly wave of “glad you are here in the community.” One senior pastor looked as if the weight of all the sorrows of the world were upon his shoulders. His first smile of the day was when he greeted our smiling, enthusiastic faces. I turned to Justin as we left that church and asked him if he thought anyone could say no to what we were offering them on this day. He agreed, the community his district serves needs us. The excitement in his eyes brought me to my keyboard, and what I thought would be a short message.
I remember a day when I was a district executive. It was in February, we were in the middle of a Klondike Derby, which is a big campout of Scouts in the snow. This particular one found us with a thousand Scouts, perfect snow and weather, and an event chairman named Tim whose son was in Saudi Arabia with his marine platoon. The air strikes in Iraq had begun and Tim knew that it was only a matter of time before his son had to see what the ravages of war really means. Tim’s son had been at the previous year’s Klondike as a participant, racing his sled in the snow, leading a troop of Scouts as SPL. A year later, just before this event, he called his father to tell him that almost every Marine in his tent of about 30 people was a Scout. The night before, they had sung camp songs at the tops of their lungs till they could sleep. Scouts from all over the country, knowing the same words to the same songs. It was the first night he had slept well since arriving on foreign soil. The next night the first SCUD attacks began and even singing and remembering times as a Scout couldn’t bring a peaceful sleep.
Tim and I decided to see if there were other Scouts from last years Klondike that found themselves on the verge of war. We placed a large poster at registration asking for the names and the list grew to over 50 of our Scouts, now in the Gulf. It was my honor to read those names as all 1000 Scouts stood at attention with their right hand in a Scout salute. Young men knew the importance of what was happening and respected such a ceremony with the dignity it deserved. At my side was a proud father and Scouter, Tim. When we left that ceremony, he fell to my arms and we wept. They become men so soon, and we have so little time to give them guideposts that will last them for their entire life. Tim knew his son was on a good path, but it wasn’t enough. A new crop of young American minds are at the head of the Scouting trail, ready to be grown and cultivated. Tim has been a letter carrier for the postal service for more than 30 years. His service to Scouting has gone on for almost as long. Tim and the many volunteers like him are the inspiration that makes this movement worth fighting for.
I wear with pride a patch on my shoulder that is encircled with a wreath. A wreath that symbolizes my promise and commission to serve units. It is this commission that makes me feel like a failure every time a unit fails.
I am but a small voice amongst the millions of professionals, volunteers and young people that make this movement a force to be reckoned with. A small voice that when combined with the voices of so many forms a chorus that loudly sings to what is the collective soul of this great country. Citizenship, faith, character, leadership, service. I am not a warrior fighting a war against terrorists. I am not a politician leading us in these decisions of how we will fight these battles. I am not a firefighter, police officer, emergency worker or other servant to our safety. I am a professional of the Boy Scouts of America. My part in this battle of good versus evil is to have the courage to give every family the opportunity to have this movement of good play a part in raising their families.
On this day, so many citizens of this great country feel a need to do something to feel better about what happened last year. For me it was as simple as this: I wore my uniform to work today.