Story by Lon Tytell
Matthew Bernhardt, a member of Boy Scout Troop 44, earned the rank of Eagle Scout on Sat., Nov. 19 at an Eagle Court of Honor Award Ceremony. Terri Gott, chairperson of the troop committee, coordinated the festivities and Jan Jansen, the treasurer of the troop committee, served as the master of ceremonies.
The Highland Engine Hose Company in Florida, which has sponsored Troop 44 for over 70 years, displays a plaque in the firehouse with the names of all the scouts who have earned this distinction. Scout Master Skip Howell, Assistant Scout Masters, members of the troop, and visiting Scout Leader Gary Lehman assisted in different parts of the program. Matthew joins his two brothers, David and Brian, as well as his father, Dave, all Eagle Scouts, in receiving this honor.
Matthew’s brother, David, explained the requirements for earning the Eagle Scout Award, which includes earning 21 merit badges, displaying leadership responsibilities, demonstrating the attributes of the Scout Oath and Scout Law, creating a service project and obtaining the approval of the Board of Review. Scout Master Skip Howell stated that only four percent of scouts become Eagle Scouts. He spoke about the obligations of an Eagle Scout, which encompass the qualities of honor, loyalty, courage, cheerfulness and service.
With the help of fellow scouts, Matthew built an 8’ by 8’ shed at the St. Stephen community garden for his project. The shed will store tools and supplies needed to grow and gather the food from the garden. The food is donated to the Warwick, Florida and Greenwood Lake food pantries. Roe Brothers and Jansen Nursery supplied the materials needed for the project. Father Jack Arlotta, of the Church of St. Stephen, agreed to the service project.
Matthew’s father, Dave, who is an Assistant Scout Master of the Troop, said, “Scouting is a great foundation for life skills. It was great having all three of my sons in scouts, being able to see them grow and mature together. Matthew had the chance to see his brothers receive the rank of Eagle, which in turn lit the fire for him to do the same. It is a lot of hard work for the scout but well worth it. From a parent’s perspective, my wife, Gwyn, and I, see the values that are instilled in the boys by their leaders. We feel this is very important in scouting core values. All three brothers, David, Brian, and Matthew, have been or are students at Burke Catholic High School.”
Matthew received recognition from U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, Governor Andrew Cuomo, NY State Senator John Bonacic, Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, Orange County Legislator Paul Ruszkiewicz, Orange County Clerk Annie Rabbitt, Orange County Sheriff Carl Dubois, Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton, Florida Mayor James Pawliczek, American Legion Post #1250, VFW Post #4662, Masonic Lodge #544 and the Highland Engine and Hose Company.
Town Justice Nancy DeAngelo summed up the importance of the Eagle Scout ceremony saying, “Matthew, you are part of a family of superheroes. You wear a scarf instead of a cape. You wear a badge of honor. Your Boy Scout Troop is an organization of superheroes.”