Unsung Heroes
Martin Hamaker
by Laura Haley
contributing writer
Oct 18, 2012 | 1413 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Martin Hamaker
Martin Hamaker
There’s something about singing songs around a campfire that keeps old men young at heart, Martin Hamaker says. And Hamaker should know – he has had plenty of campfires to help keep him young.

For the past 30 years, he and his wife, Vonna, have dedicated much of their spare time to taking local Boy Scouts camping, hiking and dog sledding.

Hamaker was a land survival specialist in the United States Navy.

“What do you do when you’re a land survival specialist for the Navy?” Hamaker asked. “You come out, you go to work for the Post Office for 30 years, and you teach Scouts.”

Hamaker took on his first troop of Boy Scouts in 1967 while living in Florida. The Hamakers have been actively involved with the organization ever since. The number of boys in his troop has fluctuated over the years. Currently, he and Vonna oversee four 10-year-old Webelos – the last step for a boy before he progresses from being a Cub Scout to a Boy Scout. Hamaker and his wife have had as many as 15 boys in the troop in the past.

“Mr. Hamaker certainly went above and beyond with the boys, and kept what activities and skills they learned fun and enjoyable,” Moab resident Cindy Montague said. Montague’s son, Brandon Montague was in Hamaker’s troop.

“He was an amazing leader,” said Moab resident Jakob Zufelt, who was also a member of Hamaker’s troop.

Even though Martin Hamaker wasn’t very involved in the Scouts when he was young, he says he feels like his time with the Scouts is a way of returning the favors that others have given to him in life.

“I feel like I’ve been served, so I can serve in that way,” he said.

Hamaker says that the Boy Scouts program is important for boys because of the adventure and the grandeur that the program can offer.

“Scouting sows adventure, bravery, challenge, honor and truth,” he said.

He says that it is also great training for later in life.

“Scouting is probably the best training program there is,” he said. “Doing merit badges, boys can learn to be geologists, farmers, beekeepers, and pilots.”

The program enables boys to experience a variety of potential career fields to help them get an idea what they want to do in life, he said.

Hamaker’s Boy Scout Troop tries to do some sort of hands-on experience with the Scouts every week. He has taught them the Queen Ann’s salute, as well as the Military Manual of Arms, he says.

Hamaker does not simply stick to the basics of outdoor survival and camping, though. He also encourages the Scouts in his troop to read.

“I try to introduce them to the authors and poets,” he said. “I found out that if they don’t read, they don’t know.”

As part of that effort, Hamaker has passed on to his Scouts the stories of Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, along with the classics like Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, and Robert Service, among other authors.

Many of the first Scouts that Hamaker and his wife, Vonna, worked with have since sent their own boys through the program.

“We’re close to having a third generation,” he said.

By his count, Hamaker says he has had contact with 26 different Scouts who have gone on to obtain their Eagle Scout designation, the highest honor attainable within the program. He also stays in contact with many of the Scouts after they leave the program. Many of his Scouts have left the area on missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Even though they’re 19, I like to keep them under my wing,” he said.

Hamaker says that the number of Boy Scouts has declined in recent years.

“With so many other activities, they don’t have time to do [Boy Scouts],” he said. Nonetheless, Martin and Vonna Hamaker keep showing up, hoping to share the joys of Scouting with anyone who might be interested. Though Vonna has acted as a leader of her own troops in the past, in recent years she has acted as Martin’s support group.

“If she didn’t allow us to do it, we couldn’t do it,” Martin Hamaker said.

“You have to keep the adventure in life,” he added. “If there’s even a spark of interest in a boy, you have to find some way to kindle it.”

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