Brothers with Dad.

This past weekend I completed my ordeal to be inducted into The Order of the Arrow (OA) which is the “honor society” of the Boy Scouts of America and can now be called “brother” by fellow members. My induction fills the gap between my dad and my son to make three generations of my family to be members of the OA in Echockotee Lodge, Osceola Chapter. My son and I were both nominated a year ago. He completed his ordeal at that point, but due to other obligations I hadn’t completed mine until now and that delay proved to be something very special.

Dad was an active scout as a youth. He was a member of Troop 63 in St. Augustine, Florida and achieved the rank of Life Scout. I think that Scouting filled a void in his life left by his own father’s death when he was very young. Dad was also a member of the OA as a youth and was rightfully proud of it. He told me stories about his time in Scouting and about his ordeal weekend, being careful not to share too many of the order’s traditions so as not to spoil the surprise in case I was ever to go through the process.

Dad did his best to pass on his love of Scouting to us. My brother briefly participated in Cub Scouts, and I was a Boy Scout with Troop 345 but never advanced past Second or First Class rank. Dad served as a leader for both my brother’s WEBELOS Den and my Scout Troop. We enjoyed our time in Scouting, but for various reasons we both drifted away from it. My son joined Cub Scout Pack 329 in first grade as a Tiger Cub and I joined along with him as an adult leader. A few years ago he crossed over to Troop 875 where I’m now the ScoutMaster. Since then, I’ve become more and more involved in Scouting and it’s come to be a very important part of my life.

When dad was a scout, the North Florida Council had two camping facilities, Camp Francis and Camp Echockotee. Dad camped at both and I’m reasonably sure that he completed his OA ordeal at Camp Echockotee. In the mid 1960’s, the council purchased a larger property that was to become Camp Shands. Shortly after it opened, all OA activities were moved there because it was a larger facility and Camp Francis was later to be closed due to development.

When my son completed his ordeal at Camp Shands last year and even though Dad was already in the grips of dementia, he was overjoyed at the fact that Ian had achieved the status of Brother in the OA. He cracked a smile, gave a thumbs up and a huge hug when Ian showed him his OA sash.

Here’s where things get interesting. Camp Shands has been closed for the last few months due to a smoldering swamp fire that’s covered the camp in smoke, so OA activities had to temporarily find another home. That home was Camp Echockotee. The OA hasn’t  used Camp Echockotee for activities in about 40 years. I didn’t really think about that fact too much until I was settling down to sleep in the woods for the first night. At that point I remembered that this was where Dad went through the same process.

I’ve mentioned to friends and family that I hadn’t really felt Dad’s presence around me since he passed away last September, but I’m certain that he was there with me this weekend in the woods at Camp Echockotee. Call it fate, call it a stroke of dumb luck, call it whatever you want, but I couldn’t be happier with the way that things worked out. It’s bittersweet that I can’t show Dad my sash, but I do believe that he was in the lodge circle with me on the night that I got it. My Dad, my son and I always had a strong bond and now it’s even stronger that we’re brothers.