Finding Solace As Scout Leader After Losing Son
by Sean Kimmons, Army News Service
July 27, 2022
Kim McCann never had the opportunity to be
in the Boy Scouts as a kid. But as a father, he got a second chance.
One day while at Yokosuka Naval Base in 2007, McCann and his
son, Ian, walked past the chapel when they noticed a social event
inside for the local scout den.
McCann, now the physical
security manager at Kure Pier 6, recalled that he had little
interest at the time, but he still waited outside as his son checked
His son ran into some of his friends, who were
scouts, and he instantly became hooked. When McCann went to retrieve
him, he realized what he had to do. He asked for an application for
his son and was provided two of them, which he both completed.
As he inquired about the next den meeting,
the attendant told him he had just filled out an application to
become the den leader.
Top - Kim McCann, left, who
serves as the physical security manager at Kure Pier 6 in
Japan, became a became a Boys Scout leader shortly after his
son, Ian, became a scout. He also had the honor of placing
an eagle scout neckerchief on Ian during a ceremony in 2014,
who unexpectedly died shortly afterwards. Bottom - Kim
McCann, center, helps lead a Boy Scout summer camp at Tama
Hills, Japan in 2019. McCain still volunteers (July 2022) as
a Boy Scout leader in honor of Ian. (Image created by USA
Patriotism! from courtesy photos from Kim McCann.)
“So they got me,” he said, jokingly. “I
became an adult leader then and I’ve loved it ever since. I thought,
if I’m going to do it for [my son], I might as well do it with him,
and we figured it out together.”
Over the years, the
former Navy chief petty officer went on to hold several leadership
roles for the Boy Scouts, including cubmaster, scoutmaster and
committee chairman. Today, he serves as an at-large district member
and is often called upon to assist.
Last month, the
66-year-old Army civilian took vacation days to lead a weeklong
summer camp at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, which had about 200
American scouts attend from locations across Japan.
to mentor a lot of really good kids, boys and girls, in scouting to
make sure they are doing the right thing and being good citizens,”
he said. “That’s what scouting is all about.”
As part of his
duties during the camp, he also participated in review boards to
ensure older scouts were ready to become an eagle scout, the highest
Similar to a Soldier of the Year board,
eagle scout board members press candidates with questions related to
their scouting experience and knowledge as well as have them recite
Prospective eagle scouts must also complete a
community service project. A recent candidate, for instance, rebuilt
a fire pit in the Tama Hills region. Another candidate, who is
autistic, built a water drainage system on top of the roof of a
small building in Tokyo.
“He did a good job with it and he
was so passionate,” McCann said. “I was so proud of him, because he
had been through a lot and he still made it all the way to eagle
McCann’s son also put in the hard work to earn the
coveted badge. Ian created a fundraiser to purchase 3,000 U.S.
flags, sized 3 feet by 5 feet. He then taught fourth and fifth
graders how to properly fold them.
As the USS Ronald Reagan
aircraft carrier prepared to deploy on a mission from Yokosuka,
McCann said his son went down to the waterfront and handed out the
flags, along with messages of support, to every sailor who boarded
“It would remind them that people still cared
about them at home,” McCann said of the project.
after he became an eagle scout, Ian, who had been attending college
in Japan, died unexpectedly in 2015. He was 19.
“All of the
roles I did for scouting were because of him, and I fell in love
with it,” McCann said. “Now I still do it because of that. I do it
for my son and I do it because I like to mentor.”
with his son, McCann has seen many other scouts climb the ranks from
cub scout to the pinnacle of eagle scout.
McCann said former
scouts will sometimes reach out to him for advice or to check in.
One of them, who is currently in basic training with the Navy,
recently texted to let him know he’s doing well.
texts like that all the time from different scouts,” McCann said.
“That, to me, is a breath of fresh air when they do that. It lets me
know what I am doing is right.”
Dale Scholle, the district
advancement chair for the Boy Scouts’ Far East Council, said he has
known McCann for about 15 years when they both got involved in
"Kim just brings a ton of energy into scouting,”
Scholle said. “He understands how to encourage youth and how to
prevent them from getting discouraged."
He said McCann will
often take charge when he sees an opportunity to step in and help.
He has even earned the wood badge, the highest level of scout
leadership training for adults.
“Wood badge is what I
consider the NBA of scouting,” Scholle said. “You walk away with a
huge toolbox of different techniques from problem solving to
communicating, planning and conflict resolution – all of those key
skills that a great leader needs to have under his belt.”
While scouting is a youth-led program, Scholle said adults are
needed to ensure a safe, positive environment.
have a great leader who can mentor, encourage and guide those youth
leaders, then basically the unit runs itself and the adults just
kind of provide the support," Scholle said.
He added that
adults will offer unique adventures to the youth like fishing, rock
climbing, rappelling or even scuba diving.
phenomenal life skills that scouts will remember for the rest of
their lives,” Scholle said. “Kim is one of those leaders who
provides such skills.”
When not in his
scout uniform, McCann leads a team of nearly 90 personnel, most of
whom are security guards who protect Kure Pier 6 and three Army
ammunition depots near Hiroshima.
McCann said he has a great
team and enjoys working with his host-nation employees who are
“They are all good,” he said. “Every
guard I have, every admin person I have, is really good.”
While in the Navy, McCann served as an electronic warfare specialist
who operated navigational radars and computers. Then the 9/11
terrorist attacks happened.
At the time, his collateral duty
was being the force protection officer. But with the new heightened
level of security, it became his full-time job as he taught other
sailors about plans and policies, standing watch and how to fire
“It turned into my career after that,” he said.
McCann, who is originally from West Covina, California, near Los
Angeles, has also made Japan his home. Since 1985, he has been in
and out of the country, which he describes as a friendly and safe
place to live, while taking on various roles as a sailor and an Army
In his first assignment to Japan, he initially
didn’t like living here. He stayed on the base, drank at the club
and constantly complained about there being nowhere to go, he said.
He left Yokosuka on a yearlong tour to Bahrain, where he had
plenty of time to think about the life he led in Japan. When he
returned, he decided to make some changes. He moved off base,
stopped drinking and traveled around the country.
In only a
few weeks of being back, he also met a Japanese woman named Misuzu
Kato whom he eventually married.
“I just started enjoying
life,” he said. “And what I really like here is the honesty and the
friendship of the people.”
One memory that stood out to him
was when he accidentally left his wallet inside a phone booth
outside the base. He spent the day in nearby Kamakura and tried to
have fun, even though he was sure his wallet was long gone.
When he got back that evening, he was amazed to see that no one had
touched the wallet and it still had all of his $300 in it. “That
impressed me so much,” he said.
As a devout Catholic, McCann
would go on to share his own acts of kindness, such as feeding the
homeless in the city of Yokosuka and volunteering at church. He now
attends a Japanese Catholic church in Kure, where he believes he is
the only parishioner who is American.
When there is a
service, he helps read scriptures in English and makes the church
bells come alive. “I go up in the tower and ring the bells before
mass starts,” he said. “I feel like Quasimodo up there.”
Whether in church or working with the Boy Scouts, McCann said he
receives a wonderful feeling whenever he lends a hand to others.
But McCann said he had to quit his volunteer work as a scout
leader following the death of his son. The shock of losing his only
child was too much to bear.
“I stopped for a while, because
I just needed to step back,” he said. “I needed to step back and
catch my breath.”
About a year and a half later, a request
came for him to share his expertise once again as another summer
“They called me and asked me to come back,”
McCann said. “I wasn’t going to, but I did and I’m glad I did,
because it helped me.”
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