LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
For many children, juggling school and home life, extracurricular activities, college preparation, and keeping true to one of the nation’s oldest youth-based organizations can be a huge undertaking.
However, for Benjamin Rawald, the task has not only been met, it helped him gain a nomination for this year’s Military Child of the Year award, which is sponsored by a nationally recognized, military orientated charity.
One of his biggest achievements, finishing the tasks required to receive the Boy Scout’s exploring merit badge, means Rawald has completed and attained every possible Boy Scout badge currently available, 169 of them.
“He is currently the only child in southwest Texas to have every badge in the past 90 years,” said Katherine Nielander, 47th Operations Group bookstore administrator and Rawald’s mother.
“I feel very proud about it,” Rawald said. “I hope my experience helps to make the Boy Scouts a more talked about topic, and to help more young children.”
Rawald’s current project, with help from the Boy Scouts, is to research and find a solution to bring back the monarch butterflies to Val Verde County, which is the home county to Laughlin. According to Rawald, these butterflies used to populate the area, but over time disappeared as the migration path across the county changed over time.
“I would like to say we have some improvement,” Rawald said. “We used to see hordes of butterflies come to the county, and hopefully it helps to bring them back.”
Another research project was an aquatic dive with Troop 11 of the Boy Scouts from Gulf Breeze, Florida. This project was meant to expose changing conditions on the ocean floor, and to record information for the public.
“We learned a lot. The coral reefs are dying, sharks are disappearing and tropical fish are dying,” Rawald said. “Unfortunately, we can’t support them from far away, but now that we know this we can raise awareness of the issue.”
Rawald, a sophmore in high school, plans on enrolling in college as a computer science major. He hopes that his drive and motivation will help him work towards a commission in the Air Force, and, in the long run, to mold him into a role model for those around him.
“I would like to help younger scouts, [and] to tell them that just because you’re a kid doesn’t mean you can’t do anything,” Rawald said.
According to Nielander, 1,707 hours of volunteer time and three years of work with the Boy Scouts helped him enter the top 30 out of 700 other contestants in the competition.
“I feel like I’ve been able to crank it up a few notches, I feel very proud and happy that I’ve been able to compete again,” Rawald said. “I look forward to keep trucking through.”