Matt Jones approached the U.S. Marine Corps recruiting station as a confident high school senior and Life Scout.
Matt, who was 17 at the time, told the recruiter he wanted to enlist right after graduating from McCracken County High School in Paducah, Ky.
After Matt completed the necessary paperwork, the recruiter told him it would be at least six months before he would get his two-week notice instructing him to report to Parris Island, S.C., for Marine Corps recruit training.
“Matt was pleased because this was more than enough time to complete his Eagle project and submit his application for his Eagle board of review,” remembers John Wood, Matt’s Scoutmaster from Troop 2066 of the Lincoln Heritage Council.
By the time he enlisted, Matt had already finished planning his Eagle Scout service project. After securing funding and approval from the Paducah City Council, Matt and his team of volunteers planned to build and install three canine exercise stations at the Bob Noble Park dog park facility.
But just two weeks after Matt visited the recruiting station, he got the call: He had two weeks to report to Parris Island.
Matt arrived on time and ready to excel. And excel he did. Matt impressed his superiors in basic training, ranking fifth in his class in the physical test and first in shooting proficiency.
It had been a few weeks since Scoutmaster Wood heard from Matt. And then, at 3:16 p.m. on Oct. 16, 2021, he got a text message from the young man.
“Well, Mr. Wood, as of the 13th I’m officially 18 years old,” Matt wrote. “I’m sorry I never got to finish my Eagle, but God called me to another path: ‘To do my duty to God and my country.’”
The goal of Scouting
Wood looked at that text and immediately thought back to a BSA recruiting webinar he had watched two weeks earlier.
“Interestingly, at the beginning, it was mentioned that reaching Eagle rank is not the goal of Scouting. Reaching Eagle is the goal of the individual Scout,” Wood says. “The goal of Scouting is to guide each Scout to reach First Class rank, which provides the Scout the basic first-aid skills, outdoor skills, and water safety in swimming skills and canoeing. This, plus memorizing the words of the Scout Oath and Scout Law with the gradual understanding that these are not just words to memorize but words to live by for life.”
While the words in Matt’s text hint that the young man feels he failed in some way, Wood sees it differently.
“Matt’s text filled me with such pride, knowing that Matt has indeed personally experienced the true goal of Scouting,” Wood says.
Wood hopes to use Matt’s story when talking to families who might be interested in joining Troop 2066.
“There is more to Scouting than all the fun activities and merit badges we have a reputation for in Troop 2066,” Wood says. “We can help them Be Prepared for life.”
As for Matt, he’s now in infantry school at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
“The Scouts … helped me a lot,” he says. “The core values give you a compass to navigate life.”