By Karl Klooster • Staff Writer • 

Scaling scouting's summit

The highest rank a Boy Scout can earn is Eagle. In the 100-year history of the Boy Scouts of America, only 2.5 million of the 83.4 million young men who have thus far participated in the program were able to attain it.

Recently, three of them stood side by side in a ceremony that took place at the Latter-day Saints Church in Dayton. Close friends since childhood, they found it a moment marked by mutual accomplishment.

A combination of seriousness and elation lit up their faces. Pride in what they had been able to achieve was augmented by the fact that their friendship had made this possible.

Oliver Vera, Jacob Aguiar and Marco Medina have known one another since they met in elementary school. That attachment formed as children has grown closer and more connected over time.

Vera’s family is Salvadoran, Aguiar’s Cuban and Medina’s Mexican, but these three young men are American through and through. Only Medina speaks Spanish fluently, having been brought up with it as the predominant language at home.

Being members of the Mormon Church has proved influential. Their parents are well acquainted and share a strong commitment to the tenets of their faith.

The church’s youth support activities includes sponsorship of a Scouting program. Having been born in 1997, all three joined the Cub Scouts in 2005, at the age of 8.

Cubs in a den with a mother. Sounds like the recipe for an extended family, which in many ways is what these boys have become to one another — like brothers.

After four years of helping their Cub Scout pack go as the pack helped them grow, they graduated to the Boy Scouts at age 12.

Vera and Medina ended up at McMinnville High School, but Aguiar’s family moved to Dayton. So instead of a growling grizzly, Jacob became a swashbuckling pirate.

Loyalty to his school, however, did not supplant his dedication to Scouting. Side by side with his friends, he rose to tenderfoot, second class, first class, star and life.

Because of mutual enthusiasm and encouragement, it took only a little more than two years for the trio to rise through the ranks until just one final challenge remained.

“We sort of went into a lull,” Vera said. “For a while there, the three of us just palled around together and played a lot of basketball. We still attended troop meetings, but we didn’t accomplish much.”

Then Oliver Vera Sr. stepped in. He decided it was time for the boys to stop fooling around.

“I sat them down and laid out a program,” he said. “We were all going to go for Eagle Scout together.”

The boys bought into the idea, but the troop’s adult leadership needed an overhaul. So Vera Sr. shouldered the responsibility of Scoutmaster and enlisted some friends, including the boys’ parents, to help out.

Since Aguiar’s father, Angel, was serving as district president of the church, the troop was, in a manner of speaking, already under his jurisdiction as well.

“We had to earn a total of 22 merit badges and each complete a special community project,” Aguiar said. “The toughest were personnel management, emergency preparedness and camping.”

“Well, biking, too,” Vera interjected. “We had to bike 50 miles in eight hours, and this was up and down hills, and not just on paved roads either.”

As a football player at Mac High, as well as a member of the wrestling and track teams, it’s not that he is out of shape. But biking, actually “cycling,” takes an entirely different training regimen.

“We were sore for a couple of days after that,” he said. “It was painful to sit down.”

Camping might seem something a no-brainer for a Boy Scout. But to earn their badge, they had to pack in all their equipment into a wilderness area, set up camp there and do their own cooking.

“We tried to catch some fish at Lake Billy Chinook,” Aguiar quipped. “That was a disaster.”

He didn’t mention that both “fishing” and “fly-fishing” are among Scoutings’ more than 100 different merit badges. Those are obviously not ones they were trying to earn.

The community project proved to be the most daunting aspect of their Eagle Scout requirements. Planning and carrying it out took so much time, the only way to do it was during the summer.

“We decided to devote this last summer to it,” Aguiar said. “I was going to paint the Dayton Stadium, but the logistics didn’t work out. So I did a bike rodeo for kids.”

Vera put together a community connect program on obesity awareness and Medina created a child I.D. kit he passed out at summer fairs under the auspices of YCAP.

A big glitch almost got in the way.

“BSA headquarters lost the records from our troop,” Vera said. As a result, he said, “We didn’t have proof of four of our merit badges.”

They finally got it straightened out and were able to go before an official Board of Review the end of August. “We went to the LDS Church in Mac for that,” Vera said.

With the final formality out of the way, the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, three new Eagle Scout medals were minted, be-ribboned and shipped to McMinnville.

In a special Nov. 17 ceremony exclusively for the three of them, Jacob Aguiar, Marco Medina and Oliver Vera took the oath and were presented with Scouting’s highest rank.

Throughout the interview, Medina participated on speakerphone from Utah. His family had just moved there because of new job opportunities, separating him from his buddies for the first time.

“I stayed in town for the award ceremony,” he said. “But my folks were already in Utah and I went there right after. I was born and raised in Mac, so it’s going to be an adjustment for me.”

Promising to keep in touch, Vera and Augiar said their goodbyes to Medina. They signed off with a final “congratulations” and “great job” all the way around.

And that’s what I found out while OUT and ABOUT — recalling my own days as a Boy Scout who didn’t make Eagle, but went on a lot of great camping trips and other adventures around Oregon.

Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 503-687-1227.

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