Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn
2nd Brigade Combat Team PAO NCOIC
For more than a century, young boys throughout the country have been participating in the Boy Scouts of America to learn life skills that built character, responsibility and confidence. Of the approximate 115 million boys who have entered the organization, only a little over 2 million have reached the rank of Eagle Scout.
To earn the rank of Eagle Scout, a boy must progress successfully through the Boy Scout ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life. He also must earn 21 merit badges; serve six months in a troop leadership position; take part in a Scoutmaster Conference; and plan, develop and lead a service project.
Hard work and determination are about to pay off for Gregory Cannata, 14, a member of Boy Scout Troop 33. He made his way from a Cub Scout to the rank of Life in the Boy Scouts in a relatively short time, and he hopes to earn Eagle Scout by the time he reaches the age of 15 in December.
Gregory, who will be a freshman at Immaculate Heart Central Senior High School in the fall, currently holds the rank of Life Scout, and this summer, he hopes to earn the last few badges he needs and complete the required time in a leadership position.
“I have to do six months in a leadership position; I have done Forest Patrol leader and now I am going to be the troop guide. That means there is an older Scout more experienced that helps the younger Scouts,” he said. “I’ve got all the merit badges except three. I am basically almost done with them; I am working on getting them (approved).”
This past May, Gregory finished his service project: two raised gardens for the Warrior Transition Battalion here on Fort Drum. To get credit for his service project, he had to decide what he wanted to do, coordinate with the WTB, raise the funds, recruit people to help and demonstrate leadership.
“I was able to start planning February / March, as soon as I made Life Scout rank. I had to enlist help. I asked for donations from friends and relatives,” Gregory explained. “I also put out the message they could come help me physically, and we had a good turnout: friends, immediate Family, mom, brothers and some Soldiers from WTB.
“I began work on it over the Memorial Day weekend, and my goal was to get it done by June 1,” he continued. “A few people were telling me I could not do it, that I should try to do it by the end of summer, but I finished it on Memorial Day.”
At first, Gregory wanted to do meditation gardens with sand and waterfalls, but after he spoke with Timothy Seelbinder from WTB Occupational Therapy about how beneficial a raised garden would be, he agreed to change his plan.
“Mr. Seelbinder has been planting gardens there for three years, and he really wanted raised gardens, but he did not have enough funds,” Greg said. “I said ‘fine, I will do the gardens,’ and it worked out.”
The garden is basically two raised planters with a gravel path. The design will make it easier for wounded Soldiers to use. It is wheelchair accessible, and the planters are two feet high for people with limited mobility.
Leslie Milano-Luongo, an occupational therapist for the WTB, said the gardens will be part of the unit’s adaptive reconditioning program, which supports Soldiers in transition with six domains: career, physical, emotional, spiritual, social and family.
“Each Soldier, while assigned to the WTB must have a goal in each of the six domains that they are working towards. The raised bed garden will help accommodate Soldiers who may not physically be able to work low to the ground due to injuries,” Milano-Luongo explained. ”The gravel pathway is to accommodate those who have mobility deficits and may not be able to negotiate on uneven surfaces. This garden may help meet personal goals in social and leisure skill development; physical, spiritual, emotional and career domains.”
Greg’s father, Lt. Col. Greg Cannata Jr., who is currently deployed with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, was pleased to hear what Greg chose to do for his service project.
“It was his choice, which I find the most rewarding as a father. He blended his requirements, community service, and our ties as a military Family into a great idea that benefits those who have given a lot themselves,” he said.
“My only input to him was the recommendation to get it done before he started high school,” he continued. “He did all the rest on his own, which is truly what Scouts is all about – becoming a man, learning to do things on your own initiative and while leading others, for the benefit of the world, nation and community.”
There is no shortage of pride in the Cannata Family. Gregory’s mother, Natalie Cannata, is proud of her son’s accomplishments, and she credits the Boy Scouts with helping her son grow.
“I think it is teaching him a lot of beneficial life skills,” she said. “He’s learning more independence, although he’s always been very independent, but he’s learning even more, and this project has taught him a lot of good lessons and a lot about hard work and what happens when people come together and help you get very good results.”
The Boy Scouts has not been all work for Gregory; he continues to stay involved because he enjoys many of the activities that led to earning merit badges and he knows he is gaining valuable life skills.
“I stay in it because I enjoy it and I like the activities we do. I like camping and hiking. It’s fun, and you cook your own food,” he said. “It helps me as a young man growing up. I figure if I am in the Boy Scouts, I am not going to quit. I am going through to the end.”
One of the highlights he remembers is living in Australia for two years when his dad was stationed there. He and his brother Joseph participated in the Lone Scouts, an organization similar to American Boy Scouts, but both boys and girls are together.
His dad was able to participate as a counselor, which is like a Scoutmaster and Cubmaster, to help them facilitate their Scout progression. Cannata would take them hiking to earn credit for the hiking badge. They went on several trips together, including 10 miles, 20 miles and even up mountains.
“My dad is big into Scouts,” Gregory said. “Dad and I hiked every other weekend or just once a month; we’d hike for the Hiking Merit Badge. It was really fun.”
Spending time with his father, who is an Eagle Scout, and his brothers Joseph and Justin is a positive side of everyone being in the Scouts. Gregory’s younger brothers learn from him and they learn from their father.
“We share Scouting as a common experience of our youth and a shared experience together,” Cannata said. “When Gregory and his brothers make Eagle, they will be fourth-generation Eagle Scouts, which further enriches the relationship throughout the Family.”
The Cannata Family has had great experiences in the Boy Scouts, joining troops in Germany, Australia and near posts throughout the United States, but it all boils down the life skills learned as they make their way toward adulthood.
“I cannot say enough about the Scouting program. I am an Eagle Scout and attribute many aspects of my personality, successes, ability to cope with struggles and life in general to Scouting and becoming an Eagle Scout,” Cannata said. “I see the same occurring with Gregory and his brothers. Natalie and I think it is a wonderful gift for our boys. The Scout Law and Oath sum these up the best, and boys that truly live
them are bound to become great men.”