It’s not often that opening the mail makes my heart race. Yesterday brought one of those moments. Ten weeks ago I sent a letter to the Boy Scouts of America following their decision to reverse their exclusion of gays from the organization. I asked the president, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, to return the Eagle Scout badge that I had cut from my uniform and sent back to the Scouts in protest of their discriminatory policy 15 years previously. [I discussed my response to the reversal and posted a copy of my original 2001 letter to the Scouts in this post on The Atlas in late July.]
Dr. Gates did not disappoint. In a brief, but meaningful letter he acknowledged my decision and offered his own counsel on the significance of the Eagle. Enclosed were my patch and membership card along with a copy of my 2001 letter.
After the initial wave of excitement passed I examined the patch and card more closely. These were clearly the originals I had sent in 14 years ago, not re-issued replicas. It felt surreal to hold in my hands the exact same patch I had earned and my original, worn membership card. Someone at the national headquarters had filed and stored these carefully over the years. In response to my request they had been retrieved and restored to me.
How many other letters and patches were in that drawer? Was mine saved for the possibility that one day I would want it back? I may never know the answers to these questions. I do know that I feel a welcome sense of closure from receiving my patch back and a sense of justice knowing the reasons behind its return. The real story here is not that I am once again an Eagle. The real story is that the Scouts recognized that inclusion is a better policy than discrimination. Thank you for your role in that, Secretary Gates. It’s great to be back.