By Debbie Rolen
July 30, 2013
As men exited their vehicles with a hearty yell for their friends, years of separation and life melted away and they were once again members of Justice Addition Boy Scout Troop 217.
A weekend event to reunite former and current Boy Scout members of the Justice Addition Troop 217, and to honor three Scout Masters who had helped shape their lives, began with dinner on July 26, 2013, in The Barn at Peach Creek.
The scouts who grew up in Troop 217 are all over the country. One of those scouts is Jeff Fleshman, who lives in Colorado. A member of Logan High School Class of 1975, he comes home every year to for his class reunion.
“We have talked about having a reunion like this to honor our troop leaders for a long time. I decided this was the year and worked on trying to find former scouts and plan the event all year. I attended my class reunion, then stayed on for this reunion. The Buckskin Council was very helpful to me as I tried to locate and contact people,” said Fleshman.
The Boy Scouts motto is “Be Prepared.” Fleshman personified that motto as he signed scouts in and ushered former leaders to where they needed to be.
The troop was chartered and organized on January 12, 1948, and sponsored by the Justice Christian Church. The church has sponsored the troop for all of its 65 years.
With all the competition for a young person’s time and interest, there are only seven boys in a troop that used to average 28 to 30 members; however, the troop’s scouts and leaders continue to distinguish themselves.
Recently, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin honored Troop 217 member James A. Hardin, who was one of 14 West Virginia scouts to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank attainable; and Doug Witten, Assistant Scout Master for Troop 217, was recognized with the Whitney Young Service Award, an award created to recognize outstanding service by an adult individual or an organization for demonstrated involvement in the development and implementation of Scouting opportunities for youth from rural or low-income urban backgrounds.
Witten joined Troop 217 as a Boy Scout in 1954. He went on to serve as Scoutmaster for Troop 217 for 30 years and is currently serving as an Assistant Scoutmaster.
“I got involved as a Scoutmaster because someone once did it for me. I felt like I should,” said Witten, “I liked watching the boys grow up and actually accomplish things, especially earn the Eagle award.”
Witten has more than 70 Eagles to his credit, which is testimony of his dedication to the boys.
Another of the Scoutmasters for Troop 217, Glen “Mr. Mack” McDonald said, “Mr. Witten was a bachelor until he was 57, what else did he have to do.”
Witten’s wife Elizabeth said, “We were married once before, though.”
Elizabeth said she and Doug were in high school and working at Camp Chief Logan when they were tapped to participate in a shotgun wedding.
She said after high school they had just gone their separate ways and then reconnected years later.
“I saw him and we were talking. I asked him why he never married. He told me he hadn’t found anyone he loved more than he loved me. We were married in 2001 and I wouldn’t change my life for anything.”
Mr. Mack got involved in scouting back in 1971, when his sons wanted to become scouts.
“October will make 42 years for me. I had always wanted to be a scout, so I became one with my sons.”
Both of Mr. Mack’s sons are Eagle Scouts. His son Bill is a minister of the Justice Christian Church, the same church that has always sponsored Troop 217.
Mr. Mack says he had a great time with the boys and did many things he would not have been able to do. Some of those things included going to the Jamborees, summer camp, ball games, fishing and an annual “adventure trip.”
The adventure trips included multiple canoe trips in Maine and Minnesota, sailing the Florida Keys and hiking 60 miles in the Rocky Mountains of the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico during five trips out there.
John Counts spoke up to add that the troop also went on canoe trips to Canada and they also went to the Bahamas.
Counts became a Boy Scout of Troop 217 in January of 195o, later became a Scoutmaster and continues to serve as an Assistant Scoutmaster.
“I joined because all my friends were scouts,” he said,”I couldn’t wait to be a scout.”
The “boys” gathered in front of the building for a group photo, launching into a song Mr. Witten said was from the 1973 Jamboree in Nashville, Tenn., before heading into the building for a scout meeting.
The recited the Pledge of Allegience, the Boy Scout Oath, Boy Scout Law, Scout Motto, Scout Slogan and the Outdoor Code.
There was a time of reminiscing and sharing meaningful experiences before food was served after a Boy Scout Prayer.
On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., they brought pictures and other scout items they had collected and saved over the years. They projected pictures of scout trips, camp experiences and various activities. There were several displays throughout the room of Troop 217 flags, uniforms, pictures and other items.
The three Assistant Scoutmasters stood together and talked about their ages, Mr. Counts said he was 75, Mr. Mack said he was 77 and said Witten wasn’t as old as they, but he was gaining on them. When asked if they thought they would ever retire from scouting, Witten and Mr. Mack both said, “Why?” and Mr. Counts said, “When we get old enough.”