The shared spirits and philosophies of Scouts and Legionnaires were highlighted during a speech at The American Legion National Convention on Aug. 29 by the commissioner of the Boy Scouts of America.
“We are your first and your oldest partner,” said Tico Perez, of Orlando, the Scouting volunteer in charge of programs, recruiting and leadership retention. “We share common values. We teach our kids that words like honor and duty and service and sacrifice and discipline are not punch lines to current jokes, but rather they are watchwords. They are watchwords upon we they can build their lives. We teach them to live by a code; a Scout oath and a Scout law and a filter through which to make the difficult decisions they have to face. We teach that. You live that.
“We, the Legion and Scouting, live by a set of values,” he said. “And as I look around, there are very few organizations left like us; organizations that provide unfettered, unconditional, unlimited and apolitical service to America.”
Currently, there are 2,553 Legion-sponsored Scout units. In fact, many Legionnaires were involved in Scouting during their youth and are still linked to the organization.
“It is an extraordinary relationship that we have with the Legion and that is why our relationship is so strong,” he said. “It comes down to our roots. We really came on the scene at the same time. We were formed in 1910, you were formed in 1919, but it was World War I that really brought us together.”
After his speech, Perez recounted that history.
“We (Boy Scouts) really came on the scene with our war service,” he said. “We had more young men in uniform serving America during World War I than we had in the military fighting the war. We were in every community growing gardens. We had an ‘every Scout feed a soldier campaign’ where we would ship food grown by our families overseas. We ran peach pit drives collecting trainloads of peach pits to be used in gas masks. We did every bond sale imaginable; four different bond sales we ran as the BSA. We came in after all the other salesmen were done – the professionals. In fact, President Roosevelt called us the ‘cleaners and the reapers.’ We came un after everybody else and sold more bonds that anybody else. We did the same thing in World War II. We had coast watchers (and) couriers running messages. Our kids really engaged in the war service because that’s what America needed."