Never tell Bryan Zschiesche the odds.
Two once-in-a-lifetime events were scheduled for the same Saturday afternoon this month. The likelihood he could attend both? Exceedingly slim.
His Boy Scout troop was celebrating its 100th anniversary in Longview, Texas, with the party set to end around 2:30 p.m.
At 5:30 p.m. that same day, Bryan’s friend and coworker was getting married in Elgin, Texas. The 250-mile drive from Longview to Elgin would take four-and-a-half hours.
There wasn’t time to drive from the celebration to the wedding. Commercial flight schedules were incompatible. Chartering a plane? Way too expensive. And Bryan didn’t have any friends with a helicopter or teleportation device.
Many might have given up, but not Bryan. This Eagle Scout learned in Troop 201 to attempt what others might not.
Bryan’s story is an inspiring tale of determination, endurance and the soaring kindness of a stranger.
Four days to go: The invitation
News of the troop’s 100th anniversary event reached Bryan late.
On Tuesday, just four days before the celebration, Bryan got an email from fellow Troop 201 Eagle Scout Jake Jenkins, who sent him the invitation and program.
Bryan told him about the wedding scheduled for the same afternoon.
“I decided there was no way to be both places at once,” Bryan says. “I let it go at that point, but something kept tugging at me.”
Three days to go: Second thoughts
The next day, Bryan told some friends about his double-booked Saturday.
“Both of them encouraged me to figure out a way to be there,” Bryan says. “My only hope was to find a pilot who would be willing to volunteer his plane and his time to help me pull it off. No small favor!”
Two days to go: The Facebook request
On Thursday night, Bryan made up his mind. He was going to give it a shot.
Bryan remembered what his dad, Herb, had taught him in Cub Scouting: Ask for help when you need it.
“The worst thing anyone can tell you when you ask them for help is say ‘no,'” Bryan remembers his dad saying.
So Bryan did exactly what we all would do when looking for help from our network of friends. He posted something on Facebook.
“Are any of my friends a pilot willing to help me in my effort to attend my troop’s 100th anniversary?” he wrote. “Alternatively, do you have someone in your network who might be willing to help? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate a truly special event in the history of our troop and Scouting as a whole. I would forever be in your debt.”
The post went up at 10:06 p.m. Thursday. The Troop 201 celebration was less than 38 hours away.
One day to go: A hero lands
The response was overwhelming. Bryan received several messages of suggestions and encouragement. Fellow Eagle Scouts wished him well.
But nobody had access to a plane. That is, until Bryan heard from Chad Sims of Marshall, Texas.
“I spoke with Chad and learned that he had a 1975 Beechcraft Bonanza which he had been flying since the mid-1990s,” Bryan says. “After checking that the weather was OK, he volunteered to help me out. I couldn’t believe it.”
The day of, Part 1: Troop 201’s celebration
Chad picked up Bryan near Bryan’s home in Katy, Texas. They flew to the airport in Longview, where Bryan had arranged for his mom and dad to pick them up.
Herb had reshuffled his plans, too, so that he could attend the Troop 201 event with his son.
“This allowed my dad to join me for the celebration, which made the event all the more special,” Bryan says. “I had lunch with friends and Scoutmasters I hadn’t seen in 20 or more years.”
Among the special guests: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a member of Troop 201 as a boy.
“I am proud to be a Boy Scout,” Abbott told the crowd. “But, more importantly to the Boy Scouts here, I’m proud you are Boy Scouts. I’m counting on you to keep America the most exceptional nation in the history of the world.”
Troop 201 alumni opened a time capsule the troop had buried in 1967. They stepped inside their historic Scout Hut, which “still retained the same distinct aroma that it did all those years ago,” Bryan says.
By 2:30 p.m., three hours into the event, it was time for Bryan and Chad to head back to the airport.
The day of, Part 2: A friend’s wedding
Bryan and Chad landed at Austin Executive Airport at 4:30 p.m., where Bryan’s wife, Cele, was waiting.
She was dressed for the wedding — “and looked stunning, I might add,” Bryan says — but Bryan needed to change. He slipped into the airport bathroom to put on a new shirt and brush his teeth.
They made it to the wedding minutes before 5:30 p.m.
Bryan’s reflection on that special day and the events that preceded it is quite touching:
“That day will go down as one of the best days of my life,” he says. “Against all odds, I was able to celebrate my troop’s historic 100th anniversary with the Scoutmasters and fellow Scouts who helped me become the man I am today.
“I got to share that with my dad, who was always involved in my Scouting experience and who taught me the lessons of persistent determination it required to get there.
“And I made a new friend in Chad Sims, one of the most genuinely good men I have ever met. Flying with him was not just a means to get where I needed to go. It gave me a chance to get to know a truly great man, and it added more than I can express to this experience.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever again have an adventure quite like it. It was one of my life’s greatest highlights.”