On Sunday, Sept 16th, Boy Scout Troop 77 in Toccoa did an amazing thing. The Troop, supported in rank by friends present and friends past, dedicated a memorial Flag garden in front of their Scout building to perhaps the most deserving of Scouts ever to represent the organization in the Toccoa community. Matt Tucker, whose untimely death in 2002 saddened many, was honored Sunday with this lasting tribute to his involvement and dedication to the Boy Scouts of America.
The purpose of this tribute letter is not to describe the physical area which now bears Matt’s name. People can see that for themselves – how appropriately beautiful the landscaping and craftsmanship is, how the natural beauty mixes now with the colors of our nation. It is also not meant as a means of eulogy – we did that a decade ago on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. This is simply a personal reflection and interpretation of Matt’s legacy, one that is now represented in perpetuity on a hill off Old Riley Street.
Historically, Troop 77 – under the leadership of such men as Joe Kellar, Roy Collier, and Herb Masten – has seen scores of boys come through the doors as Scouts over the years. In periods of transition, the Troop has seen both times of high involvement and also years where fewer boys were active members. Levels of achievement relative to membership have fluctuated over time. However, the 1980s was a period in which Troop 77 necessarily saw its highest percentage of boys achieving some tremendous successes. Achieving the rank of Eagle Scout (something less than 10% of enrolled Scouts earn annually) became the norm rather than the exception. High numbers of initiates into the honor camping society the Order of the Arrow were not uncommon. Merit badges were being earned month after month. We were a group of Boy Scouts who ran through the ranks, exhibited good citizenship, service, and upheld the values of Scouting. Our core group during this time camped across the state and country, learned important new skills, and kept ourselves “physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” We were excellent representatives of Boy Scouting. We became men. We were good at what we did.
But for all of our individual successes and achievements, and for every one of us who had the Eagle badge pinned to our uniform, Matt was better. Matt was more prepared. He helped more people. He smiled that big sly grin of his and winked with more “I-know-a-better-way-to-do-it” than we ever could. He put others first more times than even the best of us combined. His attitude was better than ours in soggy north Georgia campsites, his campfires always seemed hotter, and his boots always looked warmer. His pocketknife, I’m sure, was always sharper. It was Matt who set the bar, daring and encouraging us to try harder to attain every one of our goals. Quietly, he convinced us to follow him. Matt’s preparedness, love for the organization, integrity, and passions were what we wished we could imitate – even if we couldn’t express it then, as boys. He wasn’t just a good Scout, he was naturally great. And from a leadership perspective, there wasn’t anything Matt would ask a younger Scout to do that he wouldn’t do himself (just ask Alvis.) His theory of showing and teaching you how to do something – rather than just doing it for you (presumably the easiest route, right?) – paralleled every single one of Scouting’s fundamentals, and Matt did it exceptionally.
I would like to commend Troop 77’s leadership on their decision to honor Matt in such a way and agree that it is altogether appropriate that a monument in his name be available for recognition in his community. Amidst a backdrop of North Georgia green, his Flag garden was introduced Sunday as such a memorial. I’m proud that I was his friend. I’m proud to tell his family that I loved him. I’m proud to tell his sons that their Dad was such an inspiration. And when I tell my three year-old son about Matt Tucker, that big sly grin of his will come back to my mind and I’ll hear his great big laugh, and I’m sure I’ll fight back a tear. But I will have confidence in this statement: Matt Tucker was the greatest Scout this community has ever seen, and he deserves this memorial for a hundred different reasons. Thanks Matt, for teaching all of us how to be great at what we do.