They say there's something special about a man in uniform, and I wanted to become one.

So I did.

I followed regulations in ironing out every wrinkle in my crisp new shirt and pants.

Proudly I polished my belt buckle, shined my shoes, and I used a ruler to ensure that every patch and every insignia was sewn in precisely the right place.

And at my first call to attention, the freshly memorized oath rolled off the tongue:

"On my honor,

I will do my best,

to do my duty

to God and my

country, and to obey

the Scout law; to help

other people at all times;

to keep myself

physically strong,

mentally awake,

and morally straight."

***

The Boy Scouts of America celebrates its 100th birthday today, and I'm among those tipping a cap in celebration.

Growing up in a distant rural area during my childhood, there were no local soccer leagues, public basketball gyms, or any kind of recreation department offering various other types of youth activities to youngsters to help keep them occupied and out of trouble.

We had two things available for young boys to stay busy:

Baseball, when the coach would drive by and slow down enough for me to jump into the back of his pickup as he collected the whole team on the way to practice; and we had the Boy Scouts.

The baseball coach happened to also be our scoutmaster. Needless to say, the man had an influence on my life, and so did Scouting.

There were few things more exciting to a young lad than getting ready for a big campout.

Yet, Scouting was about so much more than just the fun and adventure. It was about teaching young boys how to become good men with high moral values.

Scouting also helped teach me a wide variety of skills, allowing me to learn more about citizenship, first aid, shooting, sports, hobbies and so much more.

It was about opportunity, with volunteer adult leaders willing to invest their time in taking us on educational outings as well as those to seek the adventure that comes on an 18-mile weekend hike or conquering a whitewater raft challenge.

It also was about the Scout motto: Be prepared!

The Boy Scouts was, and remains, a life-changer.

***

Still not convinced about the value of Scouting?

Consider these statistics:

  • There are 179 U.S. astronauts who were involved in Scouting; 39 are Eagle Scouts.

  • Among U.S. Military Academy cadets at West Point, 35.5 percent were involved in Scouting; 15.6 percent of cadets are Eagle Scouts.

  • The 111th Congress included 212 members who participated in Scouting; 22 as Eagle Scouts.

  • From numbers available dating back to 1912, more than 2 million Boy Scouts have earned Scouting's highest honor, Eagle Scout. Yet, Eagle Scout is earned by only 5 percent of Boy Scouts each year.

  • During 2008 alone, Boy Scouts earned 1.9 million merit badges.

  • The most often earned merit badges since the Boy Scouts of America began in 1910 include first aid, swimming, camping, cooking and citizenship in the community.

    When I finally achieved my own Eagle Scout status at the age of 17, I was offered by my congressman a scholarship to the military academy of my choice. No other activity or sport offered me that option.

    And to this day, when I submit a resume or bio to someone who requests it, I include the Eagle Scout achievement, and it is almost always one of the first topics of conversation.

    Yes, I believe in Scouting.

    Because, Scouting believed in me.

    Happy Birthday, Boy Scouts of America. May your next century be as life-changing and meaningful as your first.

    Troy Turner is the editor of The Daily Times. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 450, Farmington, N.M. 87401; or at tturner@daily-times.com.