Mary Skahan’s final words, delivered from her bed on April 15, 2015, were directed to her grandson, Chandler.
“Chandler, I love you so much,” she told him. “You have a good life. I want you to go to college, and you make your grandfather proud, OK? You get your Eagle.”
Chandler, who was 11 at the time and a new Boy Scout in Troop 167 of Leavenworth, Kan., told his grandmother he would.
Five years later, Chandler fulfilled that wish. On Nov. 10, 2020, he became an Eagle Scout.
Chandler earned Scouting’s highest honor at age 16 — just like his grandfather and Mary’s husband, John T. Skahan, had done 86 years earlier.
After Chandler successfully completed his Eagle Scout board of review — the final step on the long but rewarding trail to Eagle — Chandler’s dad, Bill, approached him holding a small blue box.
Inside was the Eagle Scout medal Bill’s dad had worn at his Eagle Scout court of honor on Sept. 29, 1934.
“I am unsure where my father stored his Eagle medal all these years,” Bill says. “I assume with his war medals — till my mother passed it down to me to present to Chandler. I know he was very proud to be an Eagle Scout. Even with all his medals he earned in the military, he would always comment on the Eagle.”
A legacy passed on
In early 2015, about three months before her death, Mary presented her son with the box containing her late husband’s Eagle medal. John died on Jan. 1, 2004.
“She instructed me to put it in my safety deposit box and present it to Chandler when he makes Eagle rank,” Bill says. “She knew he would have a much better appreciation of it when he climbed along the same trail as his grandfather.”
The medal brought back a flood of memories for Bill, who was a Second Class Scout as a boy.
“I recall a story of him saying his years in Scouting helped prepare him for what was about to follow for him: World War II,” Bill says.
A Scouting tradition
Bill says Scouting has prepared his own son for what will follow in life.
“Being in Scouting has given my son a tremendous advantage,” Bill says. “He’s very confident and a leader. He has advanced in school as the captain of his aviation team, and his leadership experience in Scouting has helped him advance in his summer role with the city pool to a management position.”
All those hard-earned skills are, in many ways, symbolized by the Eagle medal. While Chandler cherishes his own Eagle medal and what it represents, he also understands the significance of his grandfather’s medal, earned 86 years earlier and saved for all these years.
“I feel truly honored,” Chandler says. “I was in shock my grandmother had this.”
After seeing the medal and hearing its story, Chandler understood why his dad would give him a little nudge from time to time — encouraging Chandler to continue down the path toward Eagle.
“The stories I would hear through my dad about my grandfather’s days in Scouting helped motivate me, but my true motivator was my grandmother’s wishes,” Chandler says. “I also know now that it was important to my dad. He wanted me to complete it at 16, the same age my grandfather was.”
Chandler imagines that one day he might have his own family — and perhaps a son or daughter who will choose to join Scouting and pursue our movement’s highest honor.
If that day comes, Chandler says, “I will hand down their great-grandfather’s Eagle medal and use it to motivate them up the Eagle trail.”