Knot of the Week: Honor Medal


Take a look at the seven knots we’ve covered in our Knot of
the Week series so far. They all have one thing in common: We want you to earn
them. And with enough dedication to the Scouting program, you can.

But that trend ends this week. In fact, for the first time,
we’re going to tell you about a square knot we don’t want you to earn. That’s
because the Honor Medal is given to
Scouters who risk their lives to save another. We hope you’re never faced with
that type of peril. But know this: If you are, your Scouting training will help
guide your actions.

The Honor Medal is awarded by the National Court of Honor
and is only given for the most unusual heroism and skill accompanied by
considerable risk to self. For the purposes of this award, the BSA defines “heroism”
and “skill” as follows:

  • Heroism: conduct
    exhibiting courage, daring, skill, and self-sacrifice.
  • Skill: the
    ability to use one's knowledge effectively in execution or performance. Special
    attention is given to skills earned in Scouting.

Members cannot recommend themselves for this prestigious
award. Instead, there’s a three-step process:

  1. Local councils identify worthy candidates.
  2. Council representatives interview witnesses and
    investigate the case.
  3. The National Court of Honor reviews the documentation and
    deliberates before determining whether to present an award.

One of the honors the National Court of Honor could bestow
is the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms, which is given for “extreme risk to
self” and is the highest lifesaving award in Scouting. It’s so rare that only
about 200 people have received it in more than seven decades.

Typically, the Scouters who receive the Honor Medal or Honor
Medal with Crossed Palms get their stories featured prominently in the local

Take Scott Vicznesky, for example. In 2008, the Atlanta-area
Scouter received the Honor Medal with Crossed Palms for entering a burning
house and rescuing his neighbor
. Afterward, Vicznesky, an associate Venturing
Advisor said, “I don’t think I did anything heroic. I just helped out a

Youth members also are eligible. Like Matt Knight, who was a
high school sophomore in 2003 when he received the Honor Medal with Crossed
Palms. Matt rescued a girl who was trapped underwater in a drainage pipe.

So while we never want anyone to have to earn the Honor
Medal, we’re glad that a brave few have.

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