Although Dee Browning’s free time is his own, he doesn’t see it that way. He hasn’t for years.
Instead, Browning sees his time as something to spend to help others achieve the Boy Scouts of America’s rank of Eagle Scout.
Browning recognized what it meant when he worked on and completed his Eagle requirements in the early 1970s.
As a Scout leader, the 57-year-old Oklahoma City resident continues to recognize what it means.
This year marked the 100th anniversary of the nation’s first Eagle Scout Award.
Eagle Scout is the highest attainable rank in Boy Scouting. Scouts must demonstrate proficiency in leadership, service and outdoor skills at multiple levels before achieving the Eagle rank.
Fewer than 5 percent of Boy Scouts earn the Eagle badge, according to the Boy Scouts of America.
However, Dee, his brothers James, 55, and Russell, 51, Dee’s son Brian, 38, and just this year, grandson Caleb, 17, have earned the rank of Eagle.
And Dee’s father, Courtney Browning, while not an Eagle, is still involved in Scouting at age 83.
Reasons to smile
When Dee Browning looks at an eagle, the bird, he thinks of the rank achieved throughout this family. When he thinks of the rank, he remembers the smiles.
In 1972, for his Eagle project, Browning organized a carnival for children at a muscular dystrophy summer camp.
“I remember that carnival and the whole experience of those camps, making a child who has physical challenges smile,” he said. “Even 40 years later, you still remember the smiles, and it still makes you smile.”
So how would Dee Browning encourage a Scout to dedicate the time and effort needed to earn the Eagle rank?
“I would tell him that in his pursuit to get the Eagle, he’s going to learn a lot of skills and things that he can use not only in Scouting, but he can use in real life,” Browning said.
“Everybody knows about the first aid and the knots, but there are so many avenues through Scouting that he can use after you leave Scouting and are in the work force.”
People sometimes have words of advice they repeat quite often.
Dee Browning tells his Scouts to “think it through.”
“I say, ‘I’m going to get you ready. It’s up to you to respond when something happens,’” he said.
In Browning’s office at his house hangs his Civilian Service Medal from Norman police.
The accompanying plaque he was given explains that in August 1992, Browning entered a drainage ditch four-feet deep with rushing water, placing himself in significant danger to assist a woman whose vehicle crashed in the ditch. She had become trapped inside the vehicle.
Browning and others kept her from drowning by entering the partially submerged vehicle, pulling her from the vehicle and out of the ditch, then clearing her airway.
Browning also received a Governor’s Commendation for his actions.
“I think the main thing from Scouting is that it gets you ready,” he said. “It prepared me to respond.”
Why they stay active
Courtney Browning was somewhat involved in Scouting as a youth.
But he became involved again when his sons were in Scouting in the 1960s. He hasn’t stopped.
“I was going to do that temporarily, and I’m still involved,” the elder Browning said. “It teaches them skills and values, but it also teaches them, give your best.”
Dee Browning has traveled to Scouting events worldwide.
When asked why he remains active in Scouting, he goes back to the smiles.
“Every child is different,” he said.
“I’m a shooting instructor, and you take that kid that can’t even hit the paper that first day and he’s ready to quit.
“You just keep working with them and figure out what it is they need to do or not do. To see them succeed and to see that look on their face is something.”