Scouting is a way of life for Danny Kuhlmann and his son, Chase, and Dec. 19 was a proud day in the Kuhlmann household.
Chase, 18, earned his Eagle Scout rank, and Kuhlmann was awarded the Scoutmaster Award of Merit.
Kuhlmann, a former Boy Scout himself, became involved with Scouts as an adult when his eldest son joined the Cub Scouts as a first-grader.
"My wife signed him up for Cub Scouts," Kuhlmann said, who is the Scoutmaster of Troop 2 in Martinez. "They also needed leaders, so she signed me up, too. And I've loved every minute of it."
As a Cub Scout, Chase said, he and his father worked closely, but having his father as a troop leader hasn't been awkward at all.
"It is a boy-led troop, so it wasn't really a father-son thing," Chase said.
Chase spent about three months planning and executing his Eagle Scout project. With donations from businesses and help from his troop, he planned, built and installed five benches on the grounds of South Columbia Elementary School.
After his project was approved by several layers of Boy Scout committees, Chase planned a hurried Eagle Scout ceremony to be joined with the Dec. 19 Council of Honor, a monthly troop meeting for Scouts to be awarded their merit badges and other honors.
Normally, Eagle Scouts plan a special ceremony, but Chase will head to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio soon to start a year studying electronics and avionics in the Air Force.
"I'll come back here and go to school (after a year)," said Chase, adding that he then will be in the South Carolina Air National Guard. He hopes to attend Augusta State University.
Kuhlmann said he gets emotional every time one of his Scouts earns their Eagle Scout rank. He's seen quite a few, because Troop 2 is one of the largest and most prolific producers of Eagle Scouts in the Georgia-Carolina Council, which oversees 54 troops in 16 counties.
Seeing his own son earn the honor was different.
"This time I actually started crying," Kuhlmann said. "It was so embarrassing. I couldn't keep myself together. ... I didn't get my Eagle Scout and I regretted it ever since. That's the reason I'm so proud of (Chase), because he made it."
The night that was supposed to be Chase's had a surprise in store for his father.
Kuhlmann received the council's Scoutmaster Award of Merit. Because the award later was renamed the Unit Leader Award of Merit, Kuhlmann is the last leader to earn the award in the Georgia-Carolina Council and one of the last nationwide, said Jeremy Whitmore, assistant Scout executive for the council.
The award is given by the National Eagle Scout Association through the Boy Scouts of America to Scoutmasters with a record of his Scouts advancing in rank, and who has completed required training and earned a Quality Unit Award. Recipients must have a record of developing leadership, an extensive outdoor program, and a troop that attracts and retains Boy Scouts.
Kuhlmann was nominated not only by fellow adult leaders but also by troop members.
"Danny is like a big kid," said Rick Mann, who also is an adult leader of the troop. "The youth love him. They absolutely love him. ... He has no problems getting youth to step up to a task."
Since he got involved, Kuhlmann has attended weekly troop meetings for about 12 years. The adventure-oriented troop travels all over the Southeast to summer camps, adventure trips, and the national jamborees held every few years.
"That's when we had the most fun together as a father and son in Scouting was the (2005) national jamboree," Kuhlmann said.
Even though Chase aged out of Scouts at 18, he came back as an assistant Scoutmaster. Kuhlmann said he plans to continue his work in Scouts unless someone else wants to take over.
"We pride ourselves on the number of boys who start the program and complete it," Mann said. "In Boy Scouts, every award is given not for what you've done but what you're expected to do."
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