VILONIA — Sen. Gilbert Baker told an audience of about 100 Sunday night gathered to honor five teenage boys who were awarded the Gold Medal of Achievement status in the Royal Rangers "we should be in a contest to see if I can out honor you or you can out honor me."
Baker was the guest speaker during a presentation ceremony, held at the First Assembly of God in Vilonia, recognizing Pierson Castle, Logan Leifer, Kaleb Ferren, Jacob Gibson and Kyle Davis for achieving the coveted award that took the majority of the five about six years to earn. For about 30 minutes, Baker touted the importance of honoring others — a trait, he said, that is often "missing in our society today."
"This is our opportunity to honor these young men for a great accomplishment," Baker concluded.
He also encouraged the honorees to stay on task throughout their lifetime honoring and placing the needs of others above themselves. He also presented each with a Senate citation.
Royal Rangers ministry is an alternative to scouting, said Troy Potts, senior commander of the Vilonia group consisting of about 25 student members. Aspects of the organization, Potts said, include growth mentally, physically, spiritually as well as socially. He also touched on the virtues that make up the Ranger Code including being honest, courageous, loyal, courteous, obedient and spiritual.
"This is a really big deal," Potts said, prior to the ceremony. "Only 105 now in Arkansas have earned the status since 1962. It’s tough and they have to earn a lot of merits in everything from camping, horseback riding and gun safety to Bible and missions work."
A color guard from Outpost 43, Louisiana presided at the ceremony. Following, the honorees were escorted to the stage by family members. Several officials with the Royal Rangers spoke. At one point, the spotlight turned to the families. The honorees presented their mothers with roses. Concluding the ceremony, fathers were called on to step forward and present gold ropes of achievement to their sons.
Also, several letters of recognition were acknowledged. One written by President Barrack Obama was read referring to their hard work. Jacob Gibson was called on to read a 500 word essay that he had written which said he was "compelled" to join the Royal Rangers to meet new people. One in, however, he said the benefits were far reaching. He talked about his development including physically, spiritually, mentally and socially.
The event concluded with a banquet.