On Sunday, October 22, 2024, three brothers from Troop 1131 in Burke, Virginia were celebrated at a very special Eagle Court of Honor. All three Sejas-Fernandez brothers, aged 20-14, accomplished earning the highest rank in Scouts BSA, the rank of Eagle Scout, and each also reached the extraordinary goal of earning all the merit badges available at the time. Pablo, the oldest brother has 137, Gabriel, the second oldest, has 138, and Anthony, the youngest, has 139. The last merit badge that the older two brothers worked on, the backpacking merit badge, was the first merit badge for the youngest.
Why did these three Scouts embark on the journey to earn every merit badge? It all started because of a mistake! Pablo explained that one night when they were attempting to sew his first merit badges on his sash for Scout Sunday, they went online to find the proper way. Although they wound up actually sewing the first patch on the wrong side of the sash, during this research, they saw two articles about two Scouts who had earned all 137 merit badges. Pablo recalled, “I was captivated. I said to myself, ‘I only have six. How will I get all 137?’” So, during a process that included a mistake, he was inspired to accomplish the goal of earning all 137 merit badges.
When Gabriel remembered coming across a video of a Scout on the news who had earned all the merit badges he reflected, “I can’t explain how or why we were motivated by that video. But after that day, Pablo and I put our Scout career into high gear. We not only had the goal of Eagle Scouts, we had the goal of earning every merit badge that was offered.”
Beyond the pursuit of merit badges, Scouting fulfilled a need that their Mother, Renee, knew had to be met for her sons, “Scouting was life changing. For me as a single mom when my husband died, it was a struggle to find the right place where I could have the boys be active and find nice people who could teach the boys something because I couldn’t teach them any more as a mom and their father was gone. I was so worried, so concerned.” When they finally found a Troop close to their home in Virginia and started to learn more about Scouting, Renee reflected, “I found that there were older kids doing great things so that was the goal. We looked at each other and thought that maybe we could try doing that.”
During his remarks, Pablo, explained, “I can still recall the day I joined Scouting, never knowing what I would accomplish. I was eleven and from that first night of camping I said to myself, ‘I will stay with the Boys Scouts until the end,’ not knowing what I had gotten myself into! The next five years were transforming. The adventures and memories made will remain with me for the rest of my life.” He explained that Scouting taught him how to be a leader and how to run a Troop from when he started as Assistant Patrol Leader and eventually served as Senior Patrol Leader. He noted that Scouting also taught him commitment because he used to be at every single meeting, service project, and camping trip.
As it does for many Scouts, earning merit badges can lead to a particular path in life. Pablo explained, “With the merit badges we learned many new skills. Skills that included scuba diving, water sports, and shotgun merit badges and many more. Some of these merit badges prepared us to have an understanding of subjects like chemistry, engineering, and electronics. Some of them eventually make you pursue a career. For me that merit badge was programming and as of now I am at George Mason University studying cybersecurity and engineering.”
During the ceremony, Gabriel remembered that he had not liked the overall experience of Cub Scouting and didn’t want to continue with Scouting. However, he joked that due to the “powers of persuasion and peer pressure,” he joined. After summer camp when he was 12 years old, he said, “It took me until that summer to realize that Scouting isn’t some scheduled bunch of activities for somewhat outdoorsy people. Along with my friends from the Troop we had our own independent and interesting classes for archery, fishing, and more. I knew then that Boy Scouts had more to offer than what I thought going in.”
Gabriel also held leadership positions including Senior Patrol Leader and noted that all the skills he learned added up to his Eagle Scout project, “The impact of my project at a nature center may have been temporary but the effect it will have on me will last me the rest of my life. Thanks to the opportunity provided to me through Scouting and the lessons of leadership, dedication, and teamwork, I am grateful to have been a part of such a wonderful organization.”
“The merit badge work prepares you overall to be prepared for anything in life,” added Gabriel. “Doing your research beforehand and making sure you are set for what you have to do – that’s what merit badges taught me along with the skills. You won’t get that anywhere else.”
Anthony agreed, “All these different skills just stay in your mind, make you sharper and smarter and it makes you more prepared for everything in life as in the Scout motto.”
During his remarks Anthony said, “The Scouting journey is like nothing else. It’s more than just earning Eagle Scout and 139 merit badges.” He wanted to say that he accomplished this goal but he emphasized that, “The Scouting journey has been a beautiful thing to do because you meet so many great people and go to so many fun places. There is nothing like it. Scouting is the greatest thing known to man! Scouting is a brotherhood with such great people who help each other as if they are their own family.”
Throughout the ceremony the three Scouts thanked their mother for her constant support and for being loving and uplifting. For years she has driven the Scouts to meetings, merit badge classes, and summer camps throughout the region in order to assist them with their lofty goal.
When the three Scouts awarded grandparent pins to Gretchen and Kief Tackaberry for helping them along their Scout journey, it was evident that Scouting had in fact extended their family beyond their dedicated mother. Mrs. Tackaberry wound up sewing on their merit badges to very large sashes. Anthony noted Mr. Tackaberry was a mentor who was caring and smart. Renee added “a very special thank you to Gretchen and Kief Tackaberry for their unconditional support and dedication to Scouting.”
As was noted at the ceremony, the Scouting journey for these three Scouts is not only about the desire and determination of achieving these goals, the trail is about a family. Even after a diagnosis of illness, Renee continued to support her boys, hiked over 40 miles and backpacked 75 miles with the last five days in the pouring rain. Mr. Tackaberry noted, “Truly the spirit of the Eagle burns in her heart.”