Port Republic resident Chris Rummler had to move around in Boy Scouts before he found the right fit. He started in Smithville as part of Troop 77. A little later, he tried Troop 12 in Absecon, but didn't fit in with members of the troop, most of whom were older and had been in scouting together for years.
It wasn't until Ryan Swartz moved up from Cub Scouts that he found his niche.
"Ryan had crossed over a little bit after I joined that, and after being left out a lot, he and I connected," said Rummler. "The older kids didn't like us. We were younger and new and a little less mature. That's how we became friends, and we've been tight ever since then."
The pair have remained close, helping to found the Port Republic-based Troop 21 in summer 2008. On Jan. 19, they received their Eagle Scout promotions in a joint Court of Honor.
Rummler and Swartz were the first Scouts from a Port Republic-based troop, not just Troop 21, to earn Eagle.
Harold Swartz Jr., Ryan's father and the troop's scoutmaster, said a troop's first Eagles represent a breakthrough because they provide a visible example for the younger members of the group.
"It shows to the other kids in there, 'Hey, you can do this, and you can stick with it,'" Swartz said. "It's just significant in that manner, that this is attainable."
To reach Eagle status, a Scout must earn 12 required badges, such as first aid, camping and personal fitness, and nine more merit badges of their choosing. They must also complete an Eagle Scout service project that benefits their community. After the completion of these requirements, the Scout submits his body of work to the local Scout council for approval, at which point he is named an Eagle.
Rummler, who is fascinated by meteorology, built a weather monitoring station, featuring a thermometer, windsock, weather vane, rain gauge, hydrometer and an anemometer, at the town's fire hall. The station was built for use in educational projects by students in the Port Republic School District.
As his project, Swartz built a three-sided kiosk at the monument to the Battle of Chestnut Neck off Route 9 in Port Republic. One side of the kiosk explains the significance of the Revolutionary War battle, another points out other historic sites in Port Republic, and the third is a covered bulletin board with space for community announcements.
Both boys pitched in on each other's projects, along with the rest of the members of the troop.
There was a slide show of the boys' journey to Eagle, from their early days in Scouting to their projects, played at the Court of Honor.
Swartz said watching the slide show was a reminder of many long hours spent in Scouting.
"Looking back at the slide show that was made for both of us, seeing pictures of us as little Scouts and through the years, it was emotional and touching to see all that," Ryan said. "It brought back some good memories from those days."
Rummler, 18, is an assistant scoutmaster with the troop. He graduated from Oakcrest High School in summer 2012, and hopes to attend Atlantic Cape Community College soon.
Swartz, 17, is a senior at Absegami and was recently accepted to Richard Stockton College, where he plans to study communications this fall. He hopes to become an assistant scoutmaster when he hits 18, and plans to help his younger brothers, both of whom are in the troop, earn Eagle.
Both Rummler and Swartz have learned a lot over the years, growing as Scouts and growing as people. They'll carry many things from these years into their post-Scouting lives, chief among them their friendship.
"He's been like a brother to me, and to work our way through everything we've done together is just ... it makes him feel more like family to me," Rummler said, "like we were meant to earn that position together."
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