Joyson Szu

Boy Scouts of America Spirit of the Eagle Award recipient

Joyson Szu, a Star Scout from our Troop, was awarded the Spirit of the Eagle Award in 2008 by the National Court of Honor of the Boy Scouts of America *.

Joyson was a very active member of our Troop. In March 2007, Joyson was diagnosed with leukemia.

After his diagnosis, he received numerous rounds of chemotherapy, had a bone marrow transplant, and endured pain and discomfort throughout much of his treatment. He was only able to leave Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) for a few days during his battle with leukemia.

While in the hospital, Joyson had his Star Board of Review. Since he was undergoing chemotherapy and was at risk of infections due to his weak immune system, the Board of Review was held over the phone – with Troop leader Mark Nagayama in his hospital room and Kathy and Glenn Nishibayashi on the phone, the Board of Review was conducted. Joyson was very proud to have successfully completed the rank of Star.

On March 31st 2008, after having just celebrated his 14th birthday, Joyson lost his battle with leukemia.

Throughout his battle with leukemia, Joyson demonstrated tremendous Scout Spirit by truly living the Scout Oath and Scout Law. He was brave as he dealt with the side effects of the chemotherapy. He was loyal to his family and others who were close to him – as much as they cared for him, he cared for them. He maintained a cheerful attitude throughout his ordeal - as he was going through chemotherapy, he told Mr. Nagayama that “it wasn’t that bad" - he saw it as "an opportunity to experience the process because not everyone gets to have cancer" - Joyson actually found a bright spot in having cancer. Through his cheerful, positive spirit, he helped us all - his family, friends, and his fellow Scouts - through a most difficult year.

Most importantly, Joyson was reverent….his faith was strong and his belief in God gave him the strength to endure and brought him great spiritual comfort.

Throughout his battle with cancer, Joyson had a joyous spirit that embodies the Spirit of Scouting.

Each year, in memory of Joyson, Troop 693 participates in the CHOC Walk at Disneyland to raise funds to support the hospital that so lovingly cared for Joyson and his family. Since 2008, Troop 693 has raised over $40,000 to support CHOC.

* The Spirit of the Eagle Award is as an honorary posthumous special recognition for a registered BSA youth member who has lost his or her life in a tragic accident or through illness. This award is bestowed by the National Court of Honor as part of the celebration of life of this young person. The award recognizes the joy, happiness, and life-fulfilling experiences that the Scouting program made in this person's life.

Philmont - Mr. Nishibayashi’s Promise to Joyson

In the summer of 2007, I served as the Crew Advisor for the Los Angeles Area Council Philmont Contingent Crew – Crew 727-P. Upon my return from our 11-Day backpacking Trek at the Philmont Scout Ranch located in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in New Mexico, I visited Joyson Szu at Children’s Hospital Orange County (CHOC) where he was undergoing treatment for leukemia. Joyson was a Star Scout in our Troop. During that visit, I showed Joyson pictures from our Philmont Trek. He was very interested in all of the things that we had done at Philmont. He enjoyed looking at the pictures and hearing some of the stories. Because of his interest and enthusiasm I asked him if he wanted to go there someday. He replied with a resounding “Yes!” So, I promised to take him there.

On March 31, 2008, leukemia took Joyson from us. He had just turned 14 years old.

This past summer, I told William and Serena Szu (Joyson’s parents) about my promise to Joyson. I asked them if they would be willing to give something of Joyson’s for the 2011 Philmont Crew to take with them as a symbolic way to fulfill my promise. They provided two very meaningful items – a wooden neckerchief slide that Joyson had carved in the shape of an arrowhead and his hospital ID bracelet from his stay at CHOC. (Coincidentally, the Philmont patch which someone earns upon completing a Trek is in the shape of an arrowhead.)

At the last Troop meeting before the Philmont Crew departed for their Trek, these two items were presented to 2011 Philmont Crew 806-F to take with them. I asked the Crew to take them to the top of the Tooth of Time, the signature landmark of Philmont Scout Ranch, to leave them there, and do something to honor Joyson.

Glenn Nishibayashi
Cerritos, California
Former Scoutmaster – Troop 693
2007 Philmont Crew Advisor – Crew 727-P

Joyson at the Tooth of Time

The following was written by Vignesh Sadras – Chaplain’s Aid for Philmont-2011 Crew 806-F from Troop 693:

First of all, I sincerely thank Mr. Nish, Mrs. & Mr. Szu, and Isaac for trusting the 2011 Philmont Crew 806-F to carry Joyson with us throughout Philmont in an effort to fulfill a promise made by Mr. Nishibayashi to Joyson in 2008.

For all of you who did not know Joyson Szu, he was an admirable Star Scout of Troop 693 and a Spirit of the Eagle Award recipient who sadly passed away on March 31st, 2008 due to Leukemia. This is the story of how our crew honored Joyson at the Tooth of Time, the iconic landmark at The Philmont Scout Ranch.

Just before we left the Fullerton Train Station on August 4th for Raton, New Mexico, Mr. Nish asked me, the crew’s Chaplain’s Aide, how I planned to honor Joyson at the Tooth of Time. I told him that I would say a few words before burying his arrowhead and hospital identification bracelet. Mr. Nish then asked me if I was going to memorize the speech. Since I still wasn’t sure, I asked him whether or not he wanted me to. Immediately he replied, “No; I’m sure that you will see something, meet someone, or experience something that will inspire you to speak on the Tooth of Time.” And that’s exactly what happened.

Once we arrived in Raton, New Mexico, we got on a bus that would take us to base camp. As we drove along the dusty road, I looked out the window to see a barren, desert landscape. The sky was filled with rainclouds and lightning was scorching the land beneath it. In the midst of all this darkness, I was amazed to see a brilliant rainbow shining through the darkness. In that beautiful rainbow, I saw Joyson, smiling – unconcerned with the past, present, and future. The courage he must have had to smile through such suffering was reflected by the nature around me.

Each day on the trail at Philmont, a different scout in our crew would carry Joyson’s trinkets, so it was as if he walked the trail alongside every one of us. On the 11th and last day on the trail, our crew reached the base of the Tooth of Time. We encountered many crews coming down from the Tooth of Time, and they all gave us the same bad news – that we wouldn’t be able to summit the Tooth of Time due to an intense thunderstorm at the top. We were all very disappointed, and decided to do Joyson’s ceremony at the base of the Tooth before sending three or four boys to bury Joyson’s belongings as high as they could climb. To start off the ceremony, I spoke for a couple of minutes about Joyson’s brave and optimistic personality. Then, we all sang the Philmont hymn, and Cristian played a song he had composed on his harmonica for Joyson. After that, I opened up the floor to anyone who wanted to say a few words. Since none of us got the chance to really know Joyson, I expected only a few people to speak. However, in the end, almost every single person in our crew spoke, and that too with passion. I was amazed.

Mrs. Preciado recited a poem – the same poem Mr. Nish recited to us during our last pre-Philmont meeting – in tears. Following the ceremony, three other scouts and I left to go up as far as we could when suddenly the clouds parted and the sun came out. Joyson was with us the whole time! Because of this divine event, we were all inspired to hike to the very top of the Tooth of Time on our hands and feet. After a half an hour trek, we all made it to the top, and were amazed at the view. We found a huge boulder at the very top of the Tooth of Time with a bowl that had been carved into it by the forces of nature. We decided that this was the perfect place for Joyson’s belongings, and soon placed his arrowhead and identification bracelet inside it. The arrowhead read “Joyson Szu: 2/14/94 – 3/31/08 Troop 693 Cerritos, California” on the front, and “In memory of Joyson Szu, admirable Star Scout, Spirit of the Eagle Award recipient” on the back. We each placed one rock over the arrowhead and bracelet to cover the bowl, and as we laid each rock down, we recited one of the twelve points of the Scout Law, since there were twelve members of our crew. Just like that, Mr. Nish’s promise to take Joyson to Philmont, was fulfilled.

That is the story of how our crew honored Joyson at the Tooth of Time.

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