Vietnam War hero receives Distinguished Eagle Scout Award

Thomas R. Norris is a Vietnam War hero and a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. He served two decades as a special agent with the FBI. And, perhaps not surprisingly, he’s an Eagle Scout.

So, yeah, calling him “extraordinary” is no exaggeration. Same goes for “distinguished.”

Especially after today, when Norris received the prestigious Distinguished Eagle Scout Award at a special presentation at the National Scouting Museum. 

During the Vietnam War, Norris led a ground team on a successful rescue mission, saving two downed pilots trapped within heavily controlled enemy territory. His “selfless dedication in the face of extreme danger” exemplifies the kind of bravery and honor that Scouts aspire to.

Four years after that heroic day, Norris received the Congressional Medal of Honor (read his citation here). After his military career, he joined the FBI where he worked as a special agent for 20 years.

And now, another impressive honor: Distinguished Eagle Scout.

Distinguished Eagle Scout Ross Perot led three cheers ("Hip hip, hooray!") for "Tommy" Norris.

Chief Scout Executive Robert Mazzuca, pictured above handing the award to Norris, was full of praise. Turning to Norris and smiling, Mazzuca said he was in awe of “how you’ve lived your adult life in keeping with the values of being an Eagle Scout.”

And really, that’s the point of the award. Established in 1969, it honors men who earned Eagle at least 25 years ago and spent the intervening time doing something extraordinary in their professional or volunteer careers.

It’s not easy to get one, which explains why fewer than 2,000 of them have been given out — less than 50 a year.

Two of those Distinguished Eagle Scouts were on hand to honor Norris: businessman and former presidential candidate Ross Perot and Texas congressman Pete Sessions.

And presenting the colors? Four Life Scouts from Richardson, Tex., Troop 1001.

Wait, Life Scouts? At a National Eagle Scout Association event? Then it hit me.

As I watched these guys sit at the back of the room I saw real inspiration in their eyes. Seeing Eagle Scouts like Norris, Mazzuca, Perot, and Sessions clearly boosted the guys’ drive to achieve Eagle themselves.

Texas congressman Pete Sessions (a Distinguished Eagle Scout) poses with four Life Scouts from Circle Ten Council (Tex.) Troop 1001.

And who knows? In 25 years or so, one of these Troop 1001 Scouts might receive the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award himself —  a successful passing of the torch from one generation to the next.

Want to learn more about the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award? Read a description and see past recipients by clicking here

Photos by Michael Roytek/Boy Scouts of America.

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.