March 25, 2020
By: Bill Conger
Jonathan Birmingham dreamed of earning the highest achievement in Boy Scouts since he was 11 years old. He celebrated that accomplishment last month (Feb. 22) at an Eagle Scout Court of Honor with Smithville Troop 347. Initially, he admits part of his motivation was a practical one—because the prestigious honor looks good on a resume. But in time, the meaning became deeper for him.
“When I look at myself now, as an Eagle Scout, I don’t see any of that,” says Birmingham, the son of Eric and Kelly Jo Birmingham. “I see a determined leader; someone willing to endure anything to achieve his goals; someone able to take action when needed; someone to make close connections with those around him to lead others easier. That’s what I see. That’s what being an Eagle Scout means to me.”
According to Scouting magazine, since the inception of the Eagle Scout award in 1912, just over 2- percent of eligible Scouts have earned Scouting’s highest honor.
“I was never one to settle for second best or less, and the Scouting program is something I was, and still am, very passionate about. It taught me life lessons, morphed my morals and character into the person I have become today, gave me countless memories to reflect back on, gave me plenty of camping and fishing opportunities along with other outdoor activities such as canoeing and hiking, and plenty of other reasons to love the Boy Scouts.”
“Another reason that drove me to pursue Eagle was a little kid named Evan Macrone. Evan was an 11-year-old boy with dreams of becoming an Eagle scout one day, but at age eleven he was diagnosed with cancer and found himself missing meetings more and more often because he was in the hospital until the day he passed. His story made me realize that tomorrow was never promised and today never offered any more opportunities than tomorrow will offer.”
Birmingham says upholding others before himself is one of the life lessons that he has developed in Scouts.
“After I watched my best friend drive away to move out of state for the last time, my value and definition of friendship grew exponentially. I began making huge ties with those around me including the scouts. I began to step up for others that couldn’t or wouldn’t, because I would rather see myself get hurt than see someone else I care about do the same. I began to make those connections with the new recruits we had in our troop to make them feel as welcome and as comfortable as possible.”
Part of earning the Eagle Scout honor includes initiating, coordinating and executing a service project. Birmingham chose to build a playground for the children at his home congregation, the Smithville Church of God.
“The whole process took about eight months’ worth of planning, getting several signatures of approval, research for the best and most efficient playground, researching safety laws that playgrounds have to abide by, fundraising for the materials and other costs, and assembly.”
Birmingham, 19, is now a freshman at M.T.S.U., studying to be a professional pilot. His dream for that career began from a memory as a Cub Scout.
“[Country star] Aaron Tippin and one of his two sons were tied into the pack I was in and offered to show us around one of his private planes back at his place. Once we arrived and completed the tour of his airplane, Aaron asked the parents if he could take the cub scouts flying during that same meeting. The parents reluctantly answered yes, and he took each scout up one by one to fly above their house and give them the controls to the airplane mid-flight. That day, I grew a massive passion to pursue my life as a pilot.”
After he graduates, Birmingham wants to fly for the interdenominational nonprofit Wycliffe that distributes translated Bibles to remote countries where the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists live.
“In this area, there are no churches built nor Bibles printed in their language for various reasons, so someone who wants to learn more about God and grow that connection is heavily limited. Someone, who does not even know who Jesus is cannot [learn more], because they can’t read the Bibles available. I want to be a part of an organization that makes that difference.”