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The Legacy of Josh Sain: 25 Years Later

  Eli Levsky             Officer Outlook

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Josh Sain: 25 Years Later

Arrowmen are charged to preserve the traditions of the Order of the Arrow, and the ideals of brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service are the legacy that each Arrowmen is responsible for maintaining. One shining example of an Arrowman that perpetuated this legacy during his life, and even after his passing, is the 1997 National Vice Chief Josh Sain, who exemplified those ideals and created a lasting impact and impression on the lives he touched, not only during his term in, but also in the Arrowmen who have come after him.

October marked the 25th anniversary of Josh’s passing in an automotive accident during his term on Oct. 24, 1997, when he was only 19 years old. In honor of his memory, the National Order of the Arrow Committee created the Josh Sain Memorial Scholarship, a physical reminder of his legacy. Since then, over 150 section chiefs, region chiefs, and national officers have received the scholarship. The legacy of Josh has continued to live on by impacting each of these Arrowmen.

Josh has been compared to the North Star, one of the central symbols of the OA, by the people around him, someone to whom people could orient their own values. In his speech at the 1997 National Jamboree, Josh said, “as leaders of the Order, it is our challenge to instill the spirit of the OA in our members.” He continued to speak about the spirit of the Order, as laid out by founder E. Urner Goodman; the spirit emphasizes the importance of brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service over any of the day-to-day mechanics and operations of the program.

Patrick McInerney, the 2020 central region chief and scholarship recipient, added, “one of the great things about the OA is that it doesn’t matter what kind of event you’re at, there’s always an opportunity to make a new friend if you don’t already know them.”

During his time in the OA, Patrick met fellow Arrowmen from around the nation, some of whom he remains in contact with. With the spirit of cheerfulness that so many Arrowmen embody, it was easier to make friends since everyone is extremely friendly. While Patrick served during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when personal connections were more difficult, he overcame the challenges. Part of the scholarship application asks for what the officer thinks their most significant accomplishment was during their term, and for Patrick, that was Momentum: Launch, the virtual national event. His initial responsibility was to plan the virtual aspect of the event—when there were still plans to have an in-person element—and one of the most significant parts of that was the nationwide Slack where Arrowmen from across the country could meet and become friends.

Other recipients, including the 2000 National Vice Chief Jordan Hitchens, shared this sentiment of personal relationships and cheerfulness. His term was occupied with getting OA Wilderness Voyage off the ground, making some changes to the NLS program, and of course, that year’s NOAC with the theme of Bound in Brotherhood, Led By the Spirit. Since joining the OA, Jordan has been filled with the spirit of brotherhood, and even more than 20 years later he remains in contact with some of the friends he made in the Order as a youth. Jordan believes that Josh’s legacy also includes the importance of not holding a grudge against others and acting like brothers.

“It’s much better to forgive and to discuss than let things smolder and fester and have a grudge. Forgive each other and talk things through and don’t let important conversations not be had because you’re here for a short period of time,” said Jordan.

This influence of Josh’s legacy is something that he applies to his everyday life where he tries to treasure his friendships and not hide his emotions from them to be forthright, so, at the end of the day, he is not worried if he has any unresolved grudges. Josh constantly lived up to the things of the spirit—brotherhood, cheerfulness, service—as he spoke about at the 1997 National Jamboree. Patrick remarked that he thought Josh’s legacy was how he set an example for all national officers after him to return in service to the Order and their home lodges while excelling academically.

“What’s really kind of magical is that when these young men and women get elected to these high offices they are our best representatives at the time to lead us, and it’s so cool to watch their lives unfurl. It’s immensely sad when that bright potential is sort of snuffed out early on. It also just gives me a lot of hope and seeing young people and seeing the progress through the organization and seeing them do amazing things,” concluded Jordan.

The onus of responsibility to carry on Josh’s legacy lies with Arrowmen: for future leaders of the OA to live the spirit of the Order in their lives inside and outside the program. Throughout his life and term as the national vice chief, Josh embodied what it means to be a brother to all, remain cheerful, and return to service. His legacy continues to be passed down from year to year, and the scholarship named in his honor selects each year those who best perpetuate that legacy and spirit.