As an Eagle Scout, Missouri Supreme Court Justice Paul C. Wilson on Monday told hundreds of young men who recently reached the achievement that they too would remain lifetime members of the brotherhood.
Wilson was the keynote speaker during the annual Missouri State Eagle Scout Recognition Day in the Capitol.
In 2017, 1,412 Missouri scouts became Eagles, about 4 percent of all who entered scouting. Hundreds of the boys and their families packed into the state's House Chambers for the ceremony.
His father, who was also a scout and a judge, told Wilson words he would remember forever.
"There are only two things that you can do in high school that will stick with you for the rest of your life," he told the eager Eagles. "One of them is to become an Eagle Scout. The other is to pick up a felony conviction."
He congratulated the scouts for "making the right choice."
Like the boys, Wilson was often cold, wet, hungry and exhausted while scouting, he said.
However, he felt great.
One year at camp, it got so cold the eggs the scouts wanted to prepare for breakfast froze in their shells. And he was freezing.
However, he felt great.
He remembered fights in an apple orchard at a camp. The mile swims. The biting mosquitoes. The flies.
"And I remember feeling great," Wilson said.
He told the young men the oath they took as scouts says, as well as any, he's taken what it means to be in public service.
He repeated the first two lines of their oath,"On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country."
A person's honor is the only thing in his life that is truly his own, he said. It can't be inherited, bought or borrowed. It can only be made "day by day, moment by moment," he said. "And it is yours. Honor is what you do when no one is looking."
Speaker of the House Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, also an Eagle Scout, told the scouts it's their responsibility to do "extraordinary things."
Their achievements were already stratospheric. In 2017, Eagle Scouts cumulatively earned 29,841 merit badges, camped 28,240 nights, attended 180,000 troop meetings and contributed more than 221,000 hours to service and Eagle projects.
"Each of you has demonstrated that you have the ability to do extraordinary things," Richardson said. "That's a heavy responsibility."
However, if communities, states and nations are to continue to progress, each of the scouts listening would be instrumental in "that leadership and that progress."
About 35 of the scouts attending the recognition day were from the Boy Scouts of America Great Rivers Council, which includes Central Missouri. The council's region is bordered on the north by Putnam, Schuyler and Scotland counties; on the south by Benton, Camden, Miller and Maries counties; on the west by Pettis, Saline, Chariton, Linn and Sullivan counties; and on the east by Lewis, Marion, Ralls, Pike, Montgomery and Gasconade counties.
Before the ceremony, some of the area's new Eagles talked about their projects. Ethan Schulte, 18, of Jefferson City, said he designed and managed a landscape project for a church off Lafayette Street. He and fellow scouts put some perennial flowers in so the church would have yearly blooms.
Sean Spears, 18, of Columbia, said he and other scouts built clothes racks for his little sister's private school. The racks, he said, were to hold the students' uniforms.
"It's a lot of work," Spears said. "It takes leadership to create the project and to do the project. I have to make sure the boys know what they're doing and that they stay on task."
That's a challenge, said 16-year-old Jacob Sykuta, of Columbia. Sykuta, whose project was building two gardens for his church, said the scouts who help are friends and — to an extent — employees.
"I learned how to treat friends as workers," he said. "The supervision aspect of the project makes me a better leader."