Wilson Grab

Diakonos: The Legacy of Trail Life USA’s Oldest Freedom Rangeman

Stephen Ashton

In a busy adolescent world of video games, social media, sports, and cell phones, Trail Life USA's oldest Freedom Rangeman has found a meaningful way to connect and contribute to the lives of his son-in-law, his grandsons, and the men and boys of his community through his local Trail Life Troop. The outdoors provide a timeless environment where older men are naturally emulated and their experience is never obsolete. In Trail Life USA, a unique community is created where intergenerational bonds are formed between grandfathers, fathers, and sons. Within these structured relationships, wisdom is passed on, biblical Truth is imparted, and boys are inspired.

Now entering his seventh decade, Wilson says that, “seeing growth among men and boys in the Troop is the most rewarding part of the program … It is our task to lead young men on the trail to manhood and to teach them to be the husbands and fathers they need to be. In our church, we call this the Diakonos Process.” Diakonos is the Greek word for servant. Mr. Grab explains that in Mark 10:43 Jesus says, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” Wilson Grab knows the power of this type servant leadership firsthand. Growing up, his life was powerfully impacted by the lives of his father and his scoutmaster. Their example, the nudging of a friend, and the encouragement of boys in his Troop compelled Mr. Grab to become a Trail Life leader and to pursue earning the Freedom Award at the age of 70.  Grab says, “A leader is a servant who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

A Troop Charter Member, James Gordan remarks, “Everyone needs a Wilson Grab in their life.” It was James who approached Mr. Grab about becoming the Troop’s first Freedom Award recipient saying, “as an Eagle Scout and a Troop leader you are 90% of the way there. Our Trailman need a man to lead the way and show them it can be done.”

When Trail Life USA began, its founders felt it was important to honor the legacy of Eagle Scouts in this new program. They provided a route for boys involved in Boy Scouts of America, and for any Eagle Scout, to transition to Trail Life USA and earn the Freedom Award. Having earned his Eagle Award in November of 1959, Wilson Grab was uniquely qualified to show the way for boys in his Troop. The challenge issued by James Gordan resonated with Mr. Grab, and boys in the Troop became excited about seeing their mentor achieve the highest rank in the Trail Life USA program.

On January 3, 2018, the moment the Troop had been waiting for came to pass. A ceremony was held at the church, and the community celebrated Wilson Grab becoming the Troop’s first Freedom Rangeman. The ceremony was a significant moment in the life of the Troop. The trail has been blazed and boys have followed. On April 15th of 2018, Mr. Grab’s vision of a new legacy of Freedom Award recipients will begin.  On that date, another ceremony will be held, and the first boy in Troop NC-0942 will earn the Freedom Award.  Several others will follow him in this achievement over the coming months.

For generations, Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina has had a large display case to honor boys who earned the Eagle Scout Award. A new case is now being built for the men and boys of Troop NC-942 who earn the Freedom Award. Wilson Grab looks forward to seeing the case filled as new generations of boys reach the summit of the Trail Life USA program and become young men who have demonstrated godly leadership and moral character, and earned the title of Freedom Rangemen.

About the Author

Stephen Ashton