The Medal of Honor is the highest honor that can be given to any American for their service in our military during time of war. I feel privileged to wear this award because of all it stands for and because of the history it represents. I am also humbled to wear it because I know it doesn't belong to ME...I am simply the recipient of an award that was earned by 33 men from my platoon on Guadalcanal who all worked together to do the job we had to do.
Retired Rear Admiral Gene Fluckey is a fellow Medal of Honor recipient from World War II. I've seen him at many occasions wearing both his Medal of Honor and another high award, the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Pin. He has been known to point to that pin and say: "This is the award I am most proud of. You see, the Medal of Honor belongs to all of the men who served with me on the U.S.S. Barb. This Eagle Pin...I earned MYSELF!"
I was a Boy Scout while attending school in my home town in Pennsylvania, and in my last year of high school completed the last of the requirements for the Eagle Pin. Before I received that award, I had joined the Marine Corps and simply assumed my pin would be mailed to me. For whatever reason, that was never done.
In March 24, 2003, Marilyn and I flew out to Jacksonville, Florida for a ceremony to honor Eagle Scouts. During the ceremony at last, 67 years after earning it, I was awarded my Eagle Pin. At the age of 84 I was America's NEWEST and the OLDEST Eagle Scout. It was an honor I shall never forget, a moment that happened because a good friend and fellow Eagle Scout cared enough to investigate and correct the record.
I'll let my good friend Tom Cottone explain how it happened. It is spelled out in a letter he sent to John Reesor, Executive Director of the North Florida Council of the Boy Scouts of America on January 16, 2003.
Dear Mr. Reesor,
I am a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in West Paterson, New Jersey. I have been employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the past thirty-five years. I am also an Eagle Scout with a Bronze, Gold and Silver Palm and am a life member of the National Eagle Scout Association (NESA). I am also a Vigil Honor Member of the Order of the Arrow.
For the past seven years as a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation I have been conducting a nationwide investigation in regard to the illegal manufacture, sale, use and thefts of our nation's highest military award for valor in combat, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Because of my involvement in this investigation I have had the privilege to meet, and work with most of recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, in particular Colonel Mitchell Paige, United States Marine Corps (Retired), who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in battle on Guadalcanal during World War II.
Because of his outstanding assistance to me and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he has been designated as the Official Liaison Representative between the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Colonel Mitchell Paige is the most honest, dedicated and patriotic individual that I have ever had the honor to meet.
Approximately five years ago I attended an awards ceremony with Colonel Paige and some of the other recipients of the Medal of Honor. One of those Medal of Honor recipients, Commander Eugene Fluckey, World War II, was wearing his Eagle Scout Award in addition to the Medal of Honor he was wearing around his neck.
At that time I told Colonel Paige that I too was an Eagle Scout and was very impressed that a Medal of Honor recipient would wear his Eagle Scout Award along with the Medal of Honor.
Colonel Paige then told me that he was in the Boy Scouts as a youth in Pennsylvania and that he had qualified for his Eagle Scout Award just before he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1936 but he never received the actual award and he assumed the Boy Scouts would eventually send it to him in the mail.
Colonel Paige has often spoken to me about his high regard for the Boy Scouts of America, his respect for the Eagle Scout Award, and his regret that he never received his Eagle Scout Award even though he completed all the requirements for it, specifically mentioning the required 21 merit badges he earned.
In conversations with Colonel Paige over the years he told me that he attended school in Mifflin Township, Pennsylvania and that he was in the Boy Scout Troop that held it's meetings at the school. Colonel Paige recalled that the name of the principal of the school, who was also the Scoutmaster, was a Mr. Dean. Colonel Paige advised that Mr. Dean, the Scoutmaster, would know that he met all the qualifications for the Eagle Scout Award but unfortunately Mr. Dean has since died.
Colonel Paige advised that over the years he and some of his friends and associates have made numerous attempts to obtain any documentation as to his qualifying for the Eagle Scout Award but due to the passage of time all of the records have been lost or destroyed.
During the year that I have known Colonel Paige, I, as a friend and an Eagle Scout felt it was my duty to pursue every possible lead that might result in Colonel Mitchell Paige receiving the Eagle Scout Award that he earned.
On January 14, 2003 I located and spoke to Helen (last name omitted), who told me that she has known Colonel Mitchell Paige ever since they were in the first grade where they attended school together in Mifflin Township, Pennsylvania. She advised that the town is now known as West Mifflin, Pennsylvania.
Helen told me that at the time she and Colonel Paige were attending school in Mifflin Township, Pennsylvania the principal was a Mr. Clarence Dean who was also the scoutmaster of the Boy Scout Troop that met at the school. She also told me that she clearly remembers that Colonel Mitchell Paige was a boy scout in the troop at that time and that he qualified for his Eagle Scout Award before entering the United States Marine Corps.
Helen told me that she clearly remembers Mr. Clarence Dean announcing in class that Mitchell Paige, and another classmate, Daniel Wilson, who is now dead, would be receiving the Eagle Scout Award. She stated that she and the other classmates were extremely proud of Mitchell Paige and Daniel Wilson for this great achievement.
Helen told me that she would love to see Colonel Mitchell Paige receive his Eagle Scout Award after all these years and would promptly send a notarized statement attesting to the fact that she knows Colonel Mitchell Paige was a Boy Scout and that he finished all the requirements for the Eagle Scout Award because it was announced by Mr. Clarence Dean the principal and Scoutmaster.
On behalf of Eagle Scouts, present and past, I respectfully request that Colonel Mitchell Paige be presented with the Eagle Scout Award that he justifiably earned as a member of the Boy Scout Troop in Mifflin Township, Pennsylvania. I can think of no greater event that would promote the high standards and ideals of the Boy Scouts of America than to welcome this true American Hero into the ranks of his fellow Eagle Scouts.
Very truly yours,
Thomas A. Cottone, Jr.
Special Agent, FBI
Vigil Honor - Order of the Arrow
It all sounds easy, but it was not. Tom's work on this was done over five years. He is quick to emphasize that every investigative effort he undertook to document my work to earn the Eagle Award was done on his own time, not as an FBI Agent, but as a friend and an Eagle Scout.
In the Marine Corps we pride ourselves in taking care of each other. We say, "Once a Marine - Always a Marine". As scouts we also take care of each other, it's a part of our Scout Law.
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