An Eagle Scout of Honor ceremony was held for James Stewart (Jimtu) Hogue at United Church of Christ (UCC), California, Sunday, Oct. 24. Several members of Hogue's current and past troops were in attendance for the event celebrating the completion of his Eagle Scout project and awarding of his Eagle Scout pin.
The ceremony started with a traditional Cherokee blessing performed by Bud Moellinger. Then a color guard comprised of Boy Scouts from troops 120 and 468 brought in the Missouri and Boy Scout flag. Master of Ceremony Richard Schroeder welcomed all visitors and called the ceremony to order. Hogue's mother Rayla Stewart Hogue then gave a history of Hogue's journey to becoming an Eagle Scout as well as the work done to complete his Labyrinth Eagle Scout project. UCC Pastor Rev. Jeff Hammonds then gave a prayer of thanksgiving. Troop 120 Scoutmaster Scott Jobe gave a history of the Eagle Award and presented an Assistant Scoutmaster Patch to Hogue as he joins the Troop as an assistant scoutmaster. Troop 468 Scoutmaster Rob Lorey then presented Hogue with his Eagle Scout Award and Pin. Hogue then presented his mother, father, former scoutmaster and grandmother with pins for their support. Hogue said it was the support of friends and family which helped him accomplish a task he says some told him he would never do.
"Their support means everything," Hogue said. "I have had a hard time so I'm very honored to have them here saying congratulations. There have been those who said I would never do this and other terrible things and I am happy to have proved them wrong. My family and friends were there to comfort me in those tough times and it is so meaningful to have them here. It showed how much they care and how much I am supported."
He added the award is very meaningful to him and has showed him what he is capable of. After Hogue presented pins to those who supported him, he was given several gifts and letters of encouragement and acknowledgement. One special letter came and was personally signed by President Barack Obama. Generally, the President no longer signs letters personally for Eagle Scout Award recipients, but due to a special relationship Todd DeLaney, Vice-Chairman, Religious Relationships Committee, National Council, Boy Scouts of America, a mentor of Hogue's has with President Obama, a framed letter signed by the President along with the Presidential Coin and photo was given to Hogue. DeLaney unfortunately could not attend the ceremony, but sent a letter showing his support. Don Jones, another mentor of Hogue was also unable to attend the ceremony but sent a letter of support. Letters from local organizations and a proclamation from the City of California were read during the ceremony. In the letter by President Obama, it states:
"I congratulate you on earning the rank of Eagle Scout. Your hard work, dedication and sense of service have led you into an elite group of our nation's leaders, and you should be proud of your tremendous accomplishment.
I hope that, throughout your life, you continue to draw upon the values you learned as a scout to benefit your community and our country. Young people like you who care about improving the world inspire me and give me great hope for our future."
Hogue was definitely surprised by the letter from the President and was at a loss for words.
"I'm in awe over the letter from President Obama," Hogue said. "I'm still not sure how to respond. I had no idea I would receive something this big. It means a lot. There was a present given by a family member which means more, but this is pretty close and I am very honored."
Jobe said since joining Troop 120 two years ago, Hogue has been a model scout. He added there are several requirements needed to become an Eagle Scout. There are 21 specific merit badges and it is a great accomplishment.
"Only two percent of all scouts actually finish and earn their Eagle Scout Award," Jobe said. "It is a great honor."
Lorey said Hogue is a great young man and was with their troop for over a year.
"He came in and became our Chaplain's Aide," Lorey said. "He was very active with us and was planning his Eagle Scout requirements before he moved. I am very proud of him. There is just a lot of pride. It takes a lot of perseverance, hard work and dedication. It takes several years to earn your Eagle Scout. Service is a huge part because once you come in whether as a Cub Scout or later, you serve."
Creating a labyrinth which will be housed at UCC California but available for the community was not an easy task as it took much fundraising and hard work to gather materials for the canvas. Once the materials were obtained, it then took a lot of work to intricately draw the lines of the labyrinth and then paint the canvas. Rev. Hammonds admits he was unsure anyone the age of Hogue could live up to that challenge.
"The labyrinth is such an amazing project," Rev. Hammonds said. "It was a big undertaking and when he started I was not sure he would be able to do it. I am purely amazed, proud and impressed with him. Hogue has learned from scouting about being part of a larger community. We are all very excited for him and his parents as with any Eagle Scout, they have been behind him all the way."
After Hogue gave words of wisdom and gratitude, his father gave him the Eagle Challenge. Part of the challenge was reminding Hogue he is called to be responsible for being an Eagle Scout as receiving the award is just the beginning. Being a servant to those in need and living with honor were hallmarks of the responsibility of being an Eagle Scout. Hogue said receiving the award is not the end, but another beginning in his path to bring honor to his title. After Assistant Scoutmaster Eric Schroeder recognized future Eagle Scouts, the Revs. Collette Jones and Lina Eddy gave closing prayers before visitors were allowed to use the labyrinth and have refreshments hosted by Carole Barbour.
Hogue wanted to show his appreciation to all the individuals, churches, service organizations and businesses that donated funds to build the prayer labyrinth.
"May God bless you and bring peace to your heart," Hogue said.