Memories in ink: Inspiring story behind Scouting professional’s BSA tattoo

Amanda-SAmanda Smith’s passion for Scouting isn’t just seen in her words or her actions. It’s on her skin.

Smith, a senior district executive from Pittsburgh, has the BSA fleur-de-lis and the words “On My Honor” tattooed on her left leg.

Her tattoo is so famous that new Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh mentioned it in a presentation to hundreds of Scouting professionals last month.

Like all tattoos, there’s a story behind Smith’s ink. And Smith’s story of her Eagle Scout father’s death when she was just 13 and the Scouting career he inspired is one you’ll want to read.

Andrew-SOne night in a church basement

Smith, now 29, has worked for the BSA’s Laurel Highlands Council for five years. She loves her job.

“My job working for the Boy Scouts is really where I feel I was called to serve,” she says. “Making a difference, even if it is in one person, is enough for me.”

Her BSA career started five years ago, but her exposure to Scouting started when she was 8 and attended a join Scouting night with her brother and dad in their church’s basement.

“My youngest brother was joining Cub Scouts, and my father was just bursting at the seams with excitement,” Smith says. “Being an Eagle Scout himself and knowing all of the rewards that came with the program, he signed his adult application that night, too.”

So Smith became the sister who attended den and pack meetings with her brother and her dad (pictured here) while Mom was at work.

“I essentially came up through the Cub Scout program,” she says. “Scouting made my family stronger, closer and tighter.”

From tragedy comes triumph

Smith’s brother crossed over into Boy Scouting in March 1999.

Six months later, their dad, Andrew Rhodes Smith, was at an Order of the Arrow weekend event when he died from heart complications brought on by Type 1 diabetes. He was 34.

The Smith family left Scouting soon after.

“It was too much for my brother to be without his father,” Smith says. “Too much for my mother to be reminded when driving him to meetings.”

Scouting returned to Smith’s life nine years later when she was in college. She was asked to staff a merit badge camp, and she accepted. Then she was asked back a second year. By 2010 she was the camp’s program director.

This reintroduction to Scouting awakened something in Smith. She had never felt so close to her father.

“It felt like Scouting was his breath of life to me, pointing me down a path I had not intended,” she says.

BSA-tattoo-On-My-HonorA first and then second tattoo

When Smith joined the Scouting profession five years ago, she got her first tattoo. It was a black BSA fleur-de-lis with the words “On My Honor” beneath it.

These words, she says, “are not just the first promise of the Scout Oath but a promise to my father that, On My Honor, I will do as he would have and be a part of the Scouting movement.”

This tattoo reminds Smith that Scouting is a journey that doesn’t end. It has milestones and achievements but is ongoing.

That explains a recent addition to her tattoo. This summer she became a Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow. It was the fulfillment of a promise she had made to herself — to earn this honor and to take on her father’s journey.

BSA-tattoo-Vigil-Wood-BadgeThis milestone inspired her second tattoo. There’s a red triangle for her Vigil, a set of Wood Badge beads and a feather. The feather, she says, is “from the wings my father has that guided my path through Scouting and through life.”

Smith says a tattoo is a fitting way to immortalize her father.

“He will be with me everywhere I go and through everything I do,” she says. “My ink helps keep me strong in the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. This is who I am. I am my father’s daughter, and I am proud to be a part of the Boy Scouts of America.”

About Bryan Wendell 2818 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is senior editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.