Over 500 community leaders, including current and former congresspeople, mayors, business leaders, representatives from law enforcement, and many other role models came together with scouts from the area this chilly February Friday morning to share breakfast, share stories, and to help keep scouting programs an integral part of the development and growth of our youth and communities throughout the Inland Northwest.
Another community, McAllen, Texas, is one of the most poverty-stricken in America. Situated near the southern tip of the state on the Mexico border, for decades it has been a thoroughfare for drug cartels trafficking their product to the rest of the country. This is where Terry Fossum grew up.
It’s a place where a neighbor once told Terry’s father that his kids would never amount to anything. In a place like McAllen, children are often forgotten before they even have a chance to do anything memorable. As a young man growing up in such a challenging environment, Terry had the attitude that he would face these challenges with courage. He shared a story with those having breakfast of how he woke one night to sounds coming from the back of their house, and like any 14-year-old ready to make his place in the world, he slipped from the safety of his house into the dark alley to investigate.
That was when the headlights flipped on and he was illuminated to everyone participating in the drug deal happening behind his house, including the man who raised an assault rifle and leveled it at Terry’s forehead.
Terry made it out of that alley alive, but the next few years of his life would find him losing his father. In the accepted order of things in McAllen, Terry and his brothers could have fulfilled the prophecy given by their neighbor and fallen into a life of crime and poverty with little surprise to anyone. But they had scouting. They still had a family that believed deeply in things like honor, duty, and perseverance in the face of hardship. So they persevered. Terry earned his Eagle Scout rank, then earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University, and proceeded to the Air Force where we was commissioned as Captain and executive officer of a group of nuclear-equipped B-52 bombers. Terry then started a multi-million dollar earning marketing group and became a philanthropist involved in helping survivors of genocide in Africa. From there his philanthropic ventures have only grown.
Recently Terry became known to many in the nation as the “token Boy Scout” of the Fox network reality show “Kicking and Screaming”, in which survival experts are partnered with survival novices in a tropical jungle, and as the oldest competitor on the show, Terry led his team to victory. Terry says that he sometimes thinks about his old neighbor, still alive back in McAllen, Texas, and about the thoughts he may have had if he saw Terry on television never giving up, or what he thinks when he drives by Michael E. Fossum Middle School, named after Terry’s brother, who also earned his Eagle Scout rank and tried seven times over 14 long years to become an astronaut, eventually succeeding and going on to spend six months commanding the International Space Station. Terry has a message to his old neighbor and for everyone: Never underestimate the power of a scout.
Being a scout is about more than learning how to survive outdoors. It’s about developing the physical and mental tools to survive anything that may come your way. It’s about living with honor and integrity, and caring about this world and the people who live in it. Terry shared another story, this one about one of his reality show competitors. During a rigorous physical competition where Terry’s hands were tied behind him, he stumbled and fell hard on his face. He was in immediate blinding pain, and he expected to be left behind with his pain in the dirt. But another competitor stopped and picked Terry up and helped him get going. The show producers didn’t understand what they had just seen. They questioned the competitor, asking him why he would do that in the middle of their competition. It was supposed to be about people doing whatever they can to win. He replied that he’s also a scout, and that’s what they do when they see someone who needs help.
This is the kind of mentality that builds strong communities. This is what the Boy Scouts of America does every day in communities all over the country, and as you’ve seen, their impact reaches even farther. This year was a tremendous success, raising almost $150,000 and helping make it possible for almost 9,000 youth members to be involved in scouting in the communities we live in and care about deeply. We hope to see you for breakfast in 2019!