A flock of Eagles

Ben Hamby's heroic actions tied to larger group of Boy Scouts
Mar. 16, 2013 @ 08:06 AM

Though it was his older son who saved his younger one from drowning, Dale Hamby says that in a way it was a human chain of Eagle Scouts locked hand in hand who pulled the young boy from the water that day.

But Ben Hamby, 15, still gets to keep the heroism award that the Boys Scouts presented to him last month.

Dale and Penny Hamby had traveled with their sons, Ben and Joseph, from their home in the Diamond Point subdivision of far southern Caldwell County to Kure Beach in August 2011. They arrived late in the afternoon and soon headed for the beach to unwind from the long trip, and the boys went to play in the waves. Ben said he could feel the pull of the tide but didn’t think it was going to be a problem.

Joseph, now 13, said he was playing and ducking under the water where he could still touch the sand. But that suddenly changed.

“I remember putting my head under water, and when I came up I couldn’t touch anymore,” he said. A riptide was pulling him away from shore.

He yelled to his brother.

“I was scared a little,” Ben said, “because I saw him go under.”

Everything happened so quickly, Dale and Peggy Hamby on shore didn’t realize what was going on until it was practically over. They heard Ben yelling and then saw him dragging Joseph to the beach.

“Ben got Joseph back,” Dale Hamby said, “so it made for a whole lot better vacation than it could have been.”

Ben credits the lifesaving skills he learned in the Boy Scouts.

Dale Hamby in turn notes that many of the people who teach those and other skills at camp are Eagle Scouts. He sees it as a virtuous circle in which one group of teenagers learns a skill and moves on to teach the groups behind them.

That’s one of the reasons Hamby, who became an Eagle Scout in 1976, is enthusiastic about an effort under way by the Boy Scouts’ Foothills District to try to reconnect with as many former Eagle Scouts as they can find who live in Caldwell and Alexander counties. This includes people who grew up and were Scouts somewhere else but now live here – such as, to name one, actor James Best, who played Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on “The Dukes of Hazzard” and now lives in Bethlehem in Alexander County.

They haven’t connected with Best yet, but district officials plan what they call the “Gathering of Eagles” Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Club Cola in Granite Falls. The hope is to renew Scouting’s connections with its “alumni base,” a group of adult Eagle Scouts who could become a resource for current Scouts, said Chris Scruggs, a senior district executive for the Foothills District.

The idea grew out of a similar gathering last year in Catawba County, which made contact with more than 100 former Eagle Scouts.

Dale Hamby said he once was one of the former Scouts whom Scruggs is targeting. He achieved Eagle Scout status “and then didn’t really do much with Scouting” until his sons were old enough to join Cub Scouts. He speaks of it with some regret.

“They tell you, ‘Once an Eagle, always an Eagle,” he said. “It’s not something to put on a resume and forget about.”

Scruggs and Hamby say they hope the adult Eagle Scouts they find will become involved as merit badge counselors or Scout leaders, teachers and role models for current Scouts.

Ben Hamby is trying to become an Eagle Scout himself. His Eagle Scout project, a brick paving path and adjacent mulching for The Wig Bank of Caldwell County on Mulberry Street in Lenoir, is partially completed. The brick portion, which included services donated by mason Richard Wright, was done in September. With the approach of spring, the mulching will be done soon. After that, what work is left to be done mostly is documentation for the Scouts.

And then soon, Ben hopes, he will join the Eagle Scouts’ alumni base.

--------------------------

Want to joing the Gathering of Eagles?

For more information or to sign up, go to eaglegathering.wordpress.com; search on Facebook for Foothills District Gathering of Eagles; email foothills.eaglegathering@gmail.com; or call Chris Scruggs at 828-851-1302.