The Unbelievable Story of How a Cub Scout Met John McCain Then Received an Honor You’d Never Expect

When Eagle Scout Zach Dougherty met John McCain in 2007, he was a Cub Scout. What happened years later will leave you speechless.

Zach knew the flag ceremony he was taking part in was important. But he had no idea the impression McCain left on him would come full circle.

From Troop 59 in Toms River, N.J., Zach shares his incredible story below:

My first Cub Scout event was back in 2007 … I had the honor to open an event for Sen. John McCain, who at the time was running for president. I participated in the opening flag ceremony, during of which Sen. McCain saluted me and shook my hand on stage. After the event I was able to take a picture with him.

From that moment onward I dreamed of being just like him. I wanted to grow up and be a United States senator. It’s a passion I still carry with me today.

Flash forward 10 years later … I became a leading influential young person in New Jersey politics and national student leader. As the leader of NJ’s March for Our Lives, I started to work side by side with my own U.S senators.

In September I had my Eagle Scout court of honor. My township business administrator (a former Scout executive and Mayor of Atlantic City) arranged for our congressman to send me a flag from the U.S Capitol. 

After my Court of Honor, I examined [it] in greater depth. I had discovered that the flag had flown over the U.S Capitol the same day Sen. John McCain laid in state in the rotunda of the Capitol building.

I was overwhelmed with joy and melancholy. Sen. McCain had made a tremendous impact on the beginning of my Scouting journey. He inspired a passion that’s guided me ever since. He was my hero and I dream to one day be half the leader that he was.

Scouts Meeting Politicians

Zach’s story probably leaves an impression on you of the power of role models and how strong the Scouting network can be. It may also have you wondering about the BSA’s policy on Scout participation in political events.

Here’s an excerpt from our post on the topic:

Q: Could a pack, troop or crew provide a color guard flag ceremony for a candidate’s public speaking event or rally?

A: Yes. But, BSA Policy requires our adult and youth members in uniform to leave immediately after the presentation of colors and the Pledge of Allegiance. Should they want to stay they must do so as individuals, not Scouting representatives. That means they would have to change out of their uniforms.

Since Zach was at Sen. McCain’s event to participate in a flag ceremony, he was following BSA policy.

Congratulatory Recognition for Eagle Scouts

We’ve covered how to request congratulatory letters for Eagle Scouts, but some recognizable figures send other tokens of congratulations to family’s asking for recognition for their new Eagle Scouts. Some congressmen will even request flags from the Capitol to gift to Eagles.

This is the case in Zach’s story. And thank goodness it was since it allowed him to receive a one-of-kind memento used to honor his hero.

There’s only one story like Zach’s. But other Eagle Scouts have received recognition from their communities and notable people. We’d love to hear other amazing stories like this. If you know someone with an incredible Eagle Scout recognition story to tell, send this post their way so they can share in the comments below!

About Gina Circelli 4 Articles
Gina Circelli is the Digital Editor for Boys' Life. She loves sharing news about Scouts who shake up pop culture or contribute to their communities in a big way.