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Scouts for life gather at reunion
Deal is guest speaker as Troop 26s Eagle alums mark 75 years
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Boy Scout Troop 26 assistant scoutmaster Jeff McIntire talks Saturday to son Mitchell, right, 13, who will be receiving his Eagle Scout designation, as well as boy scouts Riley Martin, center, and Matthew Smith, 14. They were attending the Boy Scouts of America Troop 26 75th anniversary at the First Baptist Church Banquet Hall in Gainesville. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

If there is a Boy Scout badge for endurance, a troop in Gainesville has earned it.

Troop 26 celebrated its 75th anniversary Saturday night with a reunion of 156 Eagles at First Baptist Church of Gainesville.

The event recognized the old and new Eagles, and drew attendees from across the country.

"Some of these people haven't been in the same room since they were in a troop together," organizer Trevor Hooper, Troop 26's assistant scoutmaster, said.

As the scouts entered, they were greeted by worn field scout manuals, old merit badges and dozens of photos.

Ed Milner, who flew in from New York, was in Troop 26 during World War II and was the earliest Scout in attendance. He joined in 1942.

Milner said he was looking forward to reuniting with his former scoutmaster, Eugene Bobo, who served as an early mentor for him after his father passed away at a young age.

"I plan to give him a big hug, and I may say ‘Sir Mr. Bobo' just for fun. He meant a lot to me and so many other kids over the years," Milner said.

Other troops reminisced about camping trips and favorite memories.

Reuben Black of Atlanta, who was in Troop 26 in 1982, said scouting taught him how to cook, hike, read maps and a number of other skills he still uses today.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't use something from Scouts," he said.

Black's favorite memory was "commando camp," when each year, Scouts would dress in military-type gear and split into armies. They would use flour in battle, by throwing it at each other to mark a "hit," and capture a flag for points.

"There were a lot of bragging rights involved," he said.

As the evening progressed, the Scouts posed for a group photo, were fed dinner and watched a video presentation on the troop. Gov.-elect Nathan Deal of Gainesville was the keynote speaker.

In one of his first public events since being elected Tuesday, Deal said many of the scouts could remember being cold and eating poor food, but they could also remember companionship and leadership.

"When you're feeling cold, hungry, wet or you're by yourself, that is the place where character is forged. It's not in the easy things of life but in the hard things of life where character builds," Deal said. "When you think times are difficult, remember it is a time of testing."

The governor-elect was presented with a 75th anniversary plaque of the event to hang in his new Capitol office.

Troop 26 has produced 278 troops in its 75-year history. At the event, 10 new Eagles were also recognized.

Hooper said Troop 26 is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, in the Northeast Georgia Council.

Several attendees credited Hooper for spending tireless hours organizing the event, beginning almost two years ago. Hooper spent over six months placing calls to past Scouts.

In his speech, Milner said he received a phone call from Hooper last year.

"He said, ‘Thank God we found you, we thought you were dead!'" Milner said, as the audience laughed and applauded.

The younger troops said they were excited to swap stories with past Scouts.

They also recognized the distinction of being a part of Troop 26.

"Scouting stays with you for life. It's something you put on college and job resumes. I really think you go a lot farther in life," 12-year-old William Ball said.

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