He was one merit badge from earning Eagle when …

eagle-washWith the finish line tantalizingly close, you’ll never guess what slowed down John L. on his trail to Eagle.

John, a Life Scout from Texas, had finished his position of responsibility requirements and completed his Eagle Scout project. He had signatures from his counselor and Scoutmaster on the blue card for his final required merit badge.

But enter the washing machine, an enemy of any teenage boy. You see, John’s blue card was in the pocket of his pants, and this photo from his Scoutmaster shows what was left after the spin cycle.

Of course, John’s Scoutmaster, Bob Olafson, shouldn’t have any trouble getting a new blue card with the proper signatures. But Bob couldn’t help but share this fun, tragic anecdote with his fellow Scouters.

Top photo from Flickr:  Some rights reserved by Drregor


  1. The Merit Badge Counselor should have his copy of the Blue Card. Go back to the MBC & have him make a copy of his.

    • The merit badge was not yet completed. So, the MBC does not have a copy. It’s up to the Scout to keep track of his blue cards until the requirements are completed and he has obtained all of the required signatures. Last night we had a little fun at the expense of a Life Scout who is the son of the Troop’s Advancement Chairman and has two older brothers that are Eagle Scouts.

      • My son has had counselors who keep the blue card until it is completed and others that allow him to hold the blue card until completion. Also had a SM who would not give the Scouts their part of the blue card upon completion. Not sure what the official rules are.

        • Check the GTA. It tells what to do with the various parts of the blue card. The MBC should NEVER keep ANY part of the blue card unless the Scout completes the merit badge!

  2. Ha! I’m a Scoutmaster of a Troop in CT and just had a similar experience for my Life Scout son.

    After smartly having all 9 new Scouts put their Textile Merit Badge certificate, blue card, patch and advancement items in their shirt pocket at Monday’s Court of Honor, and advising all the parents of our new 9 Scouts to be sure to check their son’s pocket before laundering… guess which Scout has wet, mangled bits of blue card and merit badge certificates in the bottom of his shirt pocket?!?

    Yup… my son!

  3. Done that! Plus found blue card trampled in parking lot, under bed…..now about 6 hours from completing Eagle project & leaving for 6 weeks of work at camp. Aaauuuggghhhhbbb

  4. Guys do not make the mistake of counting on your MBC to have his copy, or be able to find it. Especially if it was earned in a MBU type setting.
    Ensure you get your portion of your Blue card to your Unit Advancement Chair, who should be filling out and turning in an advancement report and keeping a unit copy of that.(Now the record is in at least three accessible places, in your hands, in the units records and in the Council records.
    While there are some great, wonderful MBC’s out there, who do everything by the book, unfortunately, IMHExperience, the rest of them, in general, do not have the copies you believe they do. In my area I would count that as the last ditch, most likely NOT to succeed avenue of re-creating a record.
    As to keeping the record in your hands, get a Baseball trading card plastic three ring notebook page and keep your Blue cards organized in it In 3 ring Binder with the rest of your Scouting accomplishments. – The binder isn’t going thru the wash. It’s big enough it probably isn’t going missing for long.

    • I agree with Joe. We use baseball trading card sleeves in a binder to store all the blue cards for my son. You can usually find them at a dollar store. I tried to get the rest of the parents to use this method without much success. Guess they’ll see the light when it comes time to find all those blue cards!

    • Is it “old fashioned” only to grant Scoutmaster Conferences to Scouts who ask for them in person? We could allow them to ask via email or text message, but we have found that our Scouts are more comfortable interacting with adults because of our policy. Having the Scouts manage their blue cards is a good way for them to take responsibility for their advancement. Making it easier doesn’t mean it’s an improvement. And might take away an opportunity to prepare them for life after/outside of Scouting.

      • Concur. Texting & email is not the same communicating as a face-to-face conversation. The subtle facial feature changes, tone of voice, etc. are not available in written communication. There are also similar issues in a Skype conversation. Part of the Boy Scouts methods is adult communication. That means Scoutmaster conferences in person.

    • Part of becoming an Eagle Scout is to learn to be responsible. Keeping track of 21 cards is not that difficult. Are you going to follow your kid around all his life making things easier for them? It’s part of growing up.

      My daughter went to freshman orientation at a major state university 2 weeks ago in a neighboring state (about 5 hours away) . . . by herself. The only texts we received from her was the ones stating she got to my sister’s house where she stayed the night before orientation began, one saying she arrived at orientation, & then another stating she was the only one there without a parent(s). After spending overnight for the orientation on campus, she texted us she was headed back. I joked that the university must have been really busy inudated with the number of helicopters hovering around.

      The two most important things that parents can give their children are roots & wings. All children have to fly on their own sometime & the Merit Badge process (and keeping track of 21 blue cards) is just one step on that journey.

  5. How many Totin Chit cards have been washed? If our boys lose (or wash) their cards, they have to go thru training again to earn another card. Just teaches them responsibility.

    • The scout who loses the card has already completed the training so they shouldn’t have to do it again. The training is the requirement for earning the privilege. The card is just verification that he’s done the training. Retaining the card is NOT the requirement and in general it is against policy to add to the requirements. The card was just a verification. Thousands of Professional, responsible and highly functioning ADULTS lose their driving license, their college diploma, their birth certificate, their social security card, etc… every day in this country and none of them have to “do it over”….they already were born, they already took the test, they already earned the degree. The documents are just the proof of the work…the same that if you lose your Eagle pin- you are STILL an Eagle. The only thing they learn from having to go thru training again is RESENTMENT. It doesn’t encourage retainment or advancement…in the end – you are feared and powerful and they are boys who lost their card.

  6. The Greater St.Louis Area Council does not use Blue Cards, they have thier own version of the merit badge card and MBC do not get a copy or part of it. They must keep their own records on this.

      • Blue cards are a form of record keeping, they are not required. BSA providea other means of keeping rexords but they are not required. In all my years of being my troop’s advancement chairman I was NEVER asked by the council to provide a blue card for proof of any merit badge. Blue cards are not provided at the conclusion of summer camps or merit badge days so a scout would not have one for all the badges they warned any way unless the troop fills one out after the fact. In any case, it is troop decision to use / not use them, not National.

        • @Randy, you may want to check the 2011 Guide to Advancement (http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/GuideToAdvancement/TheMeritBadgeProgram.aspx), Topic – last paragraph: “It is important to note the blue card is the nationally recognized merit badge record. It has been updated from time to time and carries the information needed for proper posting and for evidence and reference as needed later. For very large events—such as the national Scout jamboree—the National Council may approve an alternative format and sizing for the blue card. This is done through the national Advancement Team.”

          It is not a troop decision. Changes can only be done through the council’s advancement committee and only when approved by the national Advancement Team.

        • Your statement, “I was NEVER asked by the council to provide a blue card for proof of any merit badge.” is correct, however as merit badges are recorded and submitted via the Internet Advancement portal and are contained in the Unit Advancement Report that is physically taken to your Scout service enter to acquire the merit badges. The blue cards are kept by the counselor, unit, and Scout as a back up.

      • Yes they do. They also have their own version of the MB Counselor Application. And some other forms too.

  7. I use to put the blue cards and badges won in envelopes that went into pockets and were washed, I now put them in sealed plastic sandwich bags, the Scouts can see the badges they earned without opening the bag so when it’s put into a pocket and accidently ends up in the wash, it is less likely to be ruined. We of course have them photo copy them and put them into card sleeves but that is only good after they get them home and not in the laundry. We also submit advancement reports and they are recorded into troopmaster, but nevertheless, we still find cards like in the picture above.

  8. My son did that with one of the Historical badges done in 2010! I always make some good money on the pockets of the scouters in my family too. I am sure he will have not trouble getting a replacement.

  9. I use Troopmaster. I record all advancement on it before I give it to the scouts. If they lose their cards, it doesn’t go against them, since it is on Troopmaster. In order to give out awards, I must turn in an advancement report to Council before I can purchase awards, so Council has their records and I have it on Troopmaster which I backup on a CD. Thus 3 secure recordings of all advancement.

  10. Been there done that will many scouts over the years. When our scouts make Scout rank, we immediately hold a mini-COH at the end of the next troop meeting. Here they are awarded their first rank, troop scarf, and a “Trail to Eagle” binder which contains info on the troop, leadership positions, troop expectations, pertinent BSA online links, and baseball card holders for their completed Blue Cards. We encourage the scout to make a copy of the Blue Card for their records prior to turning it in or take a picture with their camera or smart phone. We then record the MB online with the BSA Internet Advancement and make a copy for the troop file. This has saved many a scout especially for those who Eagled out and still managed to lose or destroy their Blue Card. This fall we will be moving to Troop Master.

  11. How about the Scoutmaster who collected all the checks for Summer Camp. The troop treasurer was missing that night. SM placed them carefully folded along with the report and receipt book into his right shirt pocket. Of course there was a food spill involved so the shirt had to get washed. Yes, that confetti in the dryer was all the checks, notes and receipts for Summer Camp.
    Yes, parents were called and informed, the treasurer was there at the next meeting. no one trusted me with paperwork for several months.

  12. Our Troop uses Troopmaster so when the Merit badge is completed the Advancement Chair enters it and we have a permanent record.

    • Ann, I presume that your advancement processor, upon completion of entering the MB information, generates a report that is then uploaded to the Internet Advancement portal (that’s what the national Advancement Team would like units to do) and a Unit Advancement Report is then generated from IA that is taken to the Scout Service Center to purchase the MBs

      If your council is not mandating IA (they should be), a UAR is generated out of Troopmaster and taken to the service center for processing.

      The reason for IA is so that information is not entered twice – once by the unit advancement processor and again by the council advancement processor; resulting in a potential error in a Scout’s records for a variety of reasons.

      I refer you to an Advancement Education presentation entitled, “Getting the Most Out of Internet Advancement”, which may be found at: http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/BoyScouts/AdvancementandAwards/resources.aspx which explains why a unit should use IA.

      Hope this helps.

  13. In our council, we file a report to the council where we list the scouts and merit badges earned. So we will have a record of it.

    We have a problem in our district of having no merit badge councilor list of people to send our scouts to. Most people who sign up here check a box saying they only want to serve as councilor for their son’s troop.

  14. I gave each of my sons a small plastic coupon holder that I bought at Shop Rite. It is perfect for holding Blue cards. The sections also allow for spaces for completed merit badges, in progress merit badges and not yet started merit badges. They keep the holder in their scout knapsack. It was an inexpensive solution!

    • A fellow Eagle was in the Paper Science and Engineering program at NC State. During an introduction to the program, someone asked the PSE professor why it was so important to make paper with everything going digital. The prof’s reply edited for this audience was the following:

      When you can wipe your bottom with digital material, then paper will be obsolete.

      On a different note, you do realize that NASA and Dept. of Defense has tons of digital data that are no longer readable, because the digital data was recorded on farware that is no longer in production. In fact it’s easier to read and access records from the US Colonial period than it is from Desert Shield/Storm of 1990-91, because the hardware to read the Desert Shield/Storm no longer in use.

      • 8-track tape players, cassette tapes, laser discs, BETA, VHS, 5 1/2 inch floppies, etc. I’m sure they all thought they were were going to last forever. Paper does . . . if properly maintained.

  15. I don’t understand why a photocopy of the card can’t count. I photocopy the signatures in my son’s book periodically and store them on my phone in PDF format. I’m told though that for Merit Badges, this doesn’t count. You need the original blue card. In the legal world, a PDF counts as a signed document. Scouting needs to keep up with the legal aspects of today’s technology.

  16. I bought my sons plastic sleeves that are usually used to hold coupons for them to store their blue cards. As soon as they get one from their Scoutmaster, it goes in the sleeve and they take the sleeve with them when they visit their counselors. An inexpensive way to prevent anything bad happening to the cards.

  17. When I was an advancement coordinator I would bring Eagle Applications and troop advancement records into the council office for a merit badge check. If there was not an electronic record I would refer to the old pink sheets. If that was not available then I would go to the blue cards. Today with internet advancement recording there is a record up front. I am almost sixty and have all of my blue and white cards.

  18. I’ve been an advancement chair for 15 years. In our troop, if a Scout wants a merit badge then I need a completed blue card from the Scout. No Blue Card, No Merit Badge. I use the Blue Cards to enter into the Scouting Portal for Advancement. The blue card has worked since before computers, Troopmaster or portals. I’ve progressed with the ages. But I still attach the Scouts Bluecard record to the back of the Merit Badge Card with the MB attached. I’ve never had to have a Scout produce a blue card for advancement in my troop. However, transfers from other troops…..a Scout’s bluecard record sure makes correcting Council’s Scout records easy!

  19. This why I give all our scouts a couple sheets of those baseball card holders The blue cards slide right in so do the merit badges. I learned the hard way.

  20. I’m an Eagle Scout with 50 merit badges. I probably only have 20 Blue cards (and not all of them are for Eagle required Merit Badges). I was never asked to show any blue cards to receive my Eagle so I had NO incentive to keep track of them. National may THINK that the Blue Cards are the official record and they can put anything in the Guide that they want, but if the only people that see them are the Scout, the Scoutmaster, and the MBC, how “Official” are they really?

    As a Scoutmaster, the Blue cards tend to be a bureaucratic paper shuffle and do not add value to the scouting program. With National buying and fielding Scoutbook, it seems that National has already approved an alternate tracking method to the blue card.

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