Troop flags have traveled to mountain peaks, been carried on 50-mile hikes and flown proudly at World Scout Jamborees on five different continents.
But no troop flag has traveled farther — or faster — than the banner belonging to Troop 355 of Weatherford, Okla.
In 1969, astronaut and Star Scout Tom Stafford carried the flag from his boyhood troop into space.
“It was my idea, because I wanted to honor the Boy Scout troop that I had been in through junior high and high school,” Stafford told KFOR-TV of Oklahoma City.
As commander of the Apollo 10 mission, Stafford and his crew successfully completed the final “dress rehearsal” for the moon landing two months later.
Three Scouts, one mission
Stafford was joined on the mission by two astronauts who also were Scouts: John Young of California and Gene Cernan of Illinois. Each earned the Second Class rank as boys.
You could say that these three Scouts, who did everything short of actually landing on the moon, helped pave the way for Eagle Scout Neil Armstrong’s moon landing.
A troop flag that has orbited the moon is remarkable enough. But this story gets even better.
As Stafford and the Apollo 10 crew returned from the moon, their capsule reached 24,791 mph. That set the Guinness World Record for highest speed attained by a manned vehicle — a record that still stands today.
“This flag has flown faster than any Scout flag in the world,” Stafford told KFOR-TV.
And to think that the flag was almost thrown away.
The flag honors Troop 355’s 50th anniversary, which it celebrated in 1968. After Stafford returned to Earth in 1969, he donated the flag to his old troop.
That troop later presented the flag to Troop 20 of Oklahoma City. Eventually, as troop leadership cycled through, the flag ended up in a box.
Somehow, the flag was forgotten amid all of Troop 20’s gear. It could’ve easily been tossed out.
When Troop 20’s current Scoutmaster, Chuck McBride, took the job, he went through the troop’s storage boxes. That’s when he found the small rectangular flag.
“It needed to be where lots of people could see it and appreciate it,” McBride told the TV station. “I also thought it was time for it to come home.”
The flag, now framed, will live on at the Stafford Air & Space Museum. The museum, named for Stafford himself, is located at the airport in Weatherford.
Stafford met with a group of Scouts from Troop 20 this week as the flag took its rightful place.
Nearly 50 years after Stafford carried the flag into space, this piece of Scouting and space history has come home.
Thanks to Edgar LaBenne for the blog post idea.