Four receive Eagle rank, Scouts’ top honor

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 27, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Four young men receiving Scouting’s highest honor Sunday in an Court of Honor ceremony &045; including one Scout who was present in spirit.

Members of Troop 158 receiving Eagle Scout pins at a ceremony in St. Mary Basilica’s St. Theresa Hall included Mark Carter, brothers Adam and Andrew Vegas and Bennett Jeansonne Jr., posthumously.

The ceremony, which was originally set for December, was postponed when 15-year-old Jeansonne was killed Dec. 7 in West Feliciana Parish, La., in a hunting accident.

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Still, said the Rev. Michael O’Brien, &uot;we know he’s here with us, Š watching, smiling and celebrating with us tonight.&uot;

Jeansonne’s sister, Madeline, pinned her brother’s pin onto the lapel of their mother, Amanda, as father Benny looked on. To the side, some of Bennett Jeansonne’s fellow Scouts blinked back tears.

&uot;It’s tough without Bennett,&uot; Carter said after the ceremony, which included the ceremonial lighting of candles by Scouts and remarks by Air Force veteran Col. John Pitchford.

But the event was also a celebration of accomplishment. Carter described his feelings after the ceremony as &uot;sad, Š but happy.&uot;

Carter and his fellow Eagle Scouts flashed smiles and brief glances at the audience as their mothers pinned the medals onto the Scout’s lapels, adding to their growing collection of medals and patches.

&uot;All who know you rejoice in your achievement,&uot; Pitchford, a former Scout from the same troop, told the honorees.

The 2 percent of Scouts that make it past the Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life Scout levels to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, must earn 21 badges in various areas of interest, said Scoutmaster Fred Voss.

&uot;People think about camping when they think about scouting,&uot; Carter said, &uot;but there are merit badges in all kinds of things, Š like communications and finance.&uot;

Such accomplishments &uot;take on added significance when you consider Š distractions of today’s youth,&uot; said Voss, who gave the troop’s leaders, Scouts and their parents much of the credit.

Keeping their eyes on the prize was worth it &045; not only for the honor itself, but also for what they learned along the way, the honorees said.

&uot;You get a lot of information&uot; about survival and life skills, Andrew Vegas said. &uot;And you learn how to help the Tenderfoots with what they have to do.&uot;

His brother, Adam Vegas, agreed. &uot;I’ve learned how to work better with other people,&uot; he said.

In addition, Carter said, &uot;it’s made me a more well-rounded person.&uot;