Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Eagle Scouts follow a hero’s journey

Last week I attended an Eagle Court of Honor at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, for JPL Boy Scout Troop 509. This ritual, a rite of passage, marked the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

There is something ceremonial about nearing adulthood. The Court of Honor is an initiation, a mentorship where boys begin to understand what is sacred about becoming a man. At the court, they embrace the ethos of an Eagle Scout, appreciate their unique mission in life and realize what is entailed in serving family and community rather than self.


Through the acceptance of the Eagle Ethos, they master their place in the order of things, the possibilities of their own greatness and the true limits of their own reach. They also learn what an empowering gift their own feelings can be.

The rite of passage has dominated the evolution of civilization. In "The Odyssey," one reads of Odysseus' 500-mile journey from Troy to Ithaca. Odysseus travels for 10 years to reunite with his wife Penelope and undergoes constant challenges.


Zeus gives Hercules 12 labors, which he must accomplish to become the most renowned hero. The timeless myths of King Arthur are steeped with the understanding of the rite of passage.

Philosopher Joseph Campbell depicts this evolution as the "Hero's Journey."

During the evening, younger boys were first recognized as they transitioned through the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second-Class, First-Class, Star, Life and Eagle. As they each came to the stage, I saw the sense of accomplishment in their eyes. Gayle Hagegard, the assistant scoutmaster of Troop 509, should be acknowledged for her encouraging mentorship as she guided John Moore and Joshua Perkins through the laborious process of the Eagle quest. As John and Joshua transitioned through the ranks, accumulated merit badges and leadership billets, they in essence were following their heroes journey.

Joshua Perkins presented a mentorship pin to Nigel Angold for his role in helping Joshua surmount the challenges during his Eagle quest. John Moore presented his pin to David Van Slooten, the former scoutmaster of Troop 398 known for his exemplary service to young men.

During the Eagle Court, each boy presents a film and slide show depicting their transition during their years of Scouting. It was interesting to view their evolution from mere children to adults on stage. I was very impressed by Joshua Perkins' father's remarks, when he revealed to the audience his boy is the best man he knows.

On a humorous note, there were assorted technical difficulties while attempts were made to screen the films. Bruce Goldstein, an assistant scoutmaster, tried to correct the problem. Dave Walton quipped, "Is there a rocket scientist in the house?"

I put much credence into the essence of an Eagle Scout, and I hope that John and Joshua will live up to the mythology of Eagle. I never made it to Eagle; I got as far as Life Scout. I wish I could have expressed to all the younger boys at the ceremony that they need to see the forest through the trees and go all the way.

When I was a young lieutenant in Vietnam, invariably we would get replacements fresh from the States. As the platoon commander, I interviewed each Marine. I would ask if they were an Eagle Scout. I would typically develop those who were to be fire-team and squad leaders. Perhaps achieving the rank of Eagle Scout offers just another way to determine the measure of a man.

John and Joshua, well done. Continue to soar in life.

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at Visit his website at