‘We will miss you!’ Troop salutes departing Scoutmaster in safe, heartwarming way

Scouts don’t get discouraged when life throws a curveball. They get creative.

When Aaditya Gulati realized his troop couldn’t give its longtime Scoutmaster a more traditional send-off at a court of honor or special going-away party, the Life Scout devised another way. And he did so while maintaining social distancing guidelines designed to keep us safe.

The young man from Troop 125 of Fremont, Calif. (San Francisco Bay Area Council), planned a drive-by parade for Scoutmaster Craig Cooper, who is retiring and moving to Philadelphia to be closer to his wife.

Aaditya rallied more than 100 Scouts and their families to drive by Mr. Cooper’s house. They honked their horns, waved and saluted. Many held signs, including one that read, “Mister Cooper, the incredible T125 Boy Scout leader. We will miss you!”

Aaditya says his Scoutmaster, who served Troop 125 for more than 20 years, “treated the troop like his family.”

“On my track to Eagle, he has been an amazing mentor, and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better,” Aaditya says.

Aaditya Gulati organized the car parade.
Aaditya Gulati organized the car parade.

A Scouting hero

Aaditya could tell from his first day in Troop 125 that Mr. Cooper would be a positive influence on him.

Like all great Scoutmasters, Mr. Cooper put the youth in front. He allowed the Scouts to lead — and, yes, even to fail — all while keeping everyone “safe, healthy and always having fun,” Aaditya says. “He has inspired us all to make a positive contribution to this world.”

When Aaditya learned that Mr. Cooper was moving across the country, Aaditya (with his parents copied) began emailing leaders in his troop to share his idea for a special send-off.

Craig Cooper watches a parade of cars pass his house.
Craig Cooper watches a parade of cars pass his house.

A parade of cars

After days of planning, the big moment arrives. Mr. Cooper emerges from his house and stands in the driveway. Someone points to a line of headlights approaching in the distance and tells Mr. Cooper, “that’s for you.”

Mr. Cooper stands on the sidewalk, hands on his hips and mouth open in disbelief.

First he sees a truck with a U.S. and Troop 125 flag waving from its bed. It’s followed by a car with its windows down as the passengers wave and cheer. There’s another car behind it. And another. The line stretches far into the distance — each vehicle full of Scouts and their family members wanting to express their gratitude.

“Thank you so much,” Mr. Cooper shouts at one car. He’s smiling and blinking back tears. That smile doesn’t leave his face as the parade continues for a solid five minutes.

During these uncertain times, this tribute makes one thing certain: Leaders like Craig Cooper make a huge difference in the lives of young people.

Consider this your daily reminder that what you do as Scout leaders really matters.

“The drive-by thank you was so meaningful to him,” Aaditya says, “and to all the Scouts who will deeply miss him.”

About Bryan Wendell 3012 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.