My personal inspiration for this project isn’t a local Scout at all, but someone that was a childhood friend of mine, and a Scout in my home town.
Steve Bolger was THAT kind of Cub (the one that all Leaders inwardly groan when they see!)
He was a scruffy thing, with a perpetually lost woggle and his necker badly rolled, and he fidgeted at flag break and generally buggered about at the times that you are supposed to be still.
School wasn’t much better. We once worked out (when he was about 14) that he actually couldn’t leave until he was about 18 1/2- as he had already accrued detentions to keep him busy every week until then. His homework was always late, he spoke back to the teachers when he thought they were wrong, and he was always found fighting at playtimes.
All of which hasn’t made him sound like a very good Scout- but he was.
And he was one of the most impressive people that I have ever met.
The unusual thing about Steve is that he never made other people feel small to make himself feel better.
His fights were always with the playground bullies, and the only competition he felt was with himself.
To always do his best.
When it counted, Steve always did his best- and was the best.
Steve had a dream. He wanted to be a soldier, and to join the Parachute Regiment. The problem is that he was quite small, and like many teenagers, a bit soft and lazy. He knew this, and he also knew that he would have to be better to achieve his ambition. So pretty much every weekend, when the rest of us could be found sitting on garden walls taping the top 40 from the radio, or sat inside watching videos or playing video games, Steve could be spotted running up and down the hills and cliffs of Cromer with a rucksack on his back, full of books.
He wasn’t a keen camper, and again, he knew it was something that he had to improve- so one year he pitched his tent in September and slept outside in it every night (including Christmas!) right through until the following Summer.
He grew up and eventually earned his treasured maroon beret. Through sheer determination and hard work he had made his dream of becoming a Para come true.
He was, apparently, still as scruffy as ever (often being mocked by his mates for his personal admin) and just as prone to getting into trouble with authority as he had been as a Cub.
But when things got serious everyone wanted to be in Steve’s squad, because when it was important he did his best, and he was excellent.
A good man and a really good soldier.
His career took him all over the world and he eventually ended up in Afghanistan with 1 Para, Special Forces Support Group. On the 30th May 2009 Corporal Stephen Bolger was killed by an IED in the Musa Qala region of Helmland Province. His commanding officer said of him “Stephen was quite simply an extraordinary man, doing an extraordinary job. He embodied a life based on service to others, duty and self-sacrifice- the life of a soldier. He chose this life and lived it with a passion… how privileged we are to have known this courageous and talented soldier and every member of the unit is proud and deeply honoured to have served along side him.”
I went to his funeral in our local church.
It was absolutely packed.
The vicar talked about him as a child and described him as ‘terrible’….. and then relatives and childhood friends and Army colleagues stood up one after another to talk about how much he was loved, and how he was always cheerful, and made others around him feel better (no matter how difficult the situation) and how he didn’t look down on people- he helped them, especially those weaker than himself.
And how when things got hard or dangerous (and these were the kind of soldiers that are called in when things are particularly hard and dangerous!) everyone wanted to be with him- because there was no-one better at it.
Steve was a true Scout, a good friend, and one of the most impressive people that I have ever met. And, although to teachers, leaders and those in authority he had at some point probably seemed ‘terrible’- whenever it counted, he always did his best, and became absolutely fantastic.