Southwest Airlines pilot does a Good Turn for Scout

Helping others, leading a team and doing more than what’s expected.

Just a typical day for an Eagle Scout like Capt. Dan Reilly of Southwest Airlines.

When he found a cherished hat left behind by a Scout returning home from Philmont Scout Ranch, Reilly went the extra mile to return this priceless possession to its owner.

With the help of a dedicated employee at the Cradle of Liberty Council, this memento from a Scout’s Philmont experience is back where it belongs.

It gets even better. When returning the hat to the council, Reilly mentioned how impressed he was with the Scouts. Turns out this group of young people on Flight 3304 from Denver to Philadelphia did all of us proud.

“It was a pleasure to spend time with such a well-mannered, energetic group of young people,” Reilly wrote in his letter to the council.

A special blue hat

Each Scout who is part of the Cradle of Liberty Council’s Philmont contingent receives a special blue hat. It’s part of the uniform for their trek at the BSA’s high-adventure base in New Mexico.

Soren Carlson was one of those lucky Scouts. He’s a member of Troop 176 in Narberth, Pa., but at Philmont, he represented the council’s Crew 7.

Soren wore the hat during each rugged-but-rewarding mile of his trek. The hat, and its wearer, had been on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. To say it carried a lot of sentimental value is an understatement.

That made it all the more tragic when the hat didn’t make it off the plane.

A captain’s find

Flight 3304 landed safely in Philadelphia. Once the passengers had disembarked, Reilly walked down the aisle and spotted something blue.

The hat itself was covered in clues. “Cradle of Liberty Council” and “Philmont” were embroidered on the front. Under the bill, someone had written “Carlson, Crew 7.”

With those clues, Reilly had no trouble finding an address for the council. He put the hat in the mail along with the following letter:

A surprise in the mail

Veronica Coyle of the BSA’s Cradle of Liberty Council opened the brown envelope. Coyle and a colleague saw the hat, read the letter and felt “such a sense of pride.”

“Pride in our Scouts, a large group of teenage boys who represented themselves so well that when the pilot found the hat he felt compelled to return it,” she said. “And of course pride in the Scouting program as a whole, as it developed an Eagle Scout like Capt. Reilly, who went out of his way to take the hat with him after he’d finished his flights for the day, find the address for our council, and go to the post office and mail the package.”

Coyle called Reilly’s gesture “so representative of what Scouting is all about.”

“The stuff you do when no one’s watching, right?” she said.

A story spreads

Coyle shared the letter with her colleagues at the council. Next, Cradle of Liberty Council Scout Executive Daniel Templar wrote Reilly a thank-you note and included two council shoulder patches.

“It is clear that you abide by the saying, ‘Once an Eagle Scout, Always an Eagle Scout,'” Templar wrote. (See the full letter below.)

Coyle wanted to add her own note of gratitude, so she logged onto the Southwest website and penned a short note of thanks. She thought that was the end of it.

“To be honest, I just hoped that it got to Capt. Reilly — or better yet, his boss!” Coyle said. “I think it’s unfortunate that oftentimes people are quick to complain or post negative comments about a bad experience, but won’t take the same amount of time to recognize a positive experience.”

Coyle was surprised when she was told the letter would appear in Southwest: The Magazine, with an audience of more than 6 million readers per issue. (See the article from the February 2018 issue below.)

“While I’m sure Capt. Reilly did not return the hat because he was looking for praise (or a council shoulder patch), and I didn’t write the letter because I hoped it would be published in a magazine, it’s so nice to see that the story received the attention it did!” Coyle said.