Hero credits Scouting for courage to ‘stand up’


As gunshots barked in the crowded school cafeteria, students were quick to dive for cover. They all attempted to move away from the unexpected bullet-laced rage of a 14-year-old transfer student tormented by teasing.

Everyone, that is, except for one.

Brent Paucke emerged from under a table. Classmate Kimberly Marchese, 13, was nursing a gun shot wound to her shoulder. Elizabeth Bush, an eighth-grader, leveled her father’s .22 pistol at her own temple saying, “I don’t want to live. I should commit suicide right here.”

Paucke recognized Bush as someone who rode his school bus. He could tell she was close to pulling the trigger, and knew others could be in danger. Paucke advanced, talking to Bush as calmly as possible.

“You don’t have to do this,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be like this. It can be better. Just put the gun down and give it to me.”

When Paucke was approximately five feet from Bush, she allegedly pointed the pistol at him. The principal walked in and told Paucke to move away. Instead, the freshman continued to plead with Bush, who finally put the pistol on the cafeteria floor. Paucke kicked it away from her.

The scenario played out 10 years ago in Williamsport at what was then called Bishop Neumann. The school has since been renamed St. John Neumann Regional Academy.

Paucke, a Boy Scout, was honored for his bravery by classmates, school officials and local police. He was named the first winner of Macy’s “Go to the Head of the Parade” contest and was an honorary participant in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2001. He was also featured in Boys Life magazine, a nationally distributed publication of the Boy Scouts of America.

While many know that true Scouts try to live by a two-word motto, to “be prepared,” it is the 12-word Scout Law that helps set the base for the character and leadership backbone that Scouting tries to teach young men. A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Brent tries to live by each point daily, and many of which were on full display 10 years ago in the Bishop Neumann cafeteria.

A Scout since first grade, Brent’s mother, Debra, was the one who first encouraged him to get involved.

“Brent’s father left us when I was still pregnant,” she said. “I wanted to get Brent around other positive male role models doing manly things. I wound up helping out as a leader for the first several years until Brent moved up into Boy Scouts (from Cub Scouts). The experience had a major impact on him.”

Including on that fateful day in the Bishop Neumann cafeteria. When asked if his Scouting career helped him handle the life-or-death situation at school, Brent admitted it did “110 percent!

“It taught me how to be a man, the difference between right and wrong, how to keep calm in any situation and the feeling of doing anything in the world that I wanted to,” he said. “It gave me the confidence to stand up that day.”

And with that, he concluded he really didn’t have a choice when it came to intervening in the school shooting.

“I knew that if I sat there and did nothing and someone else got hurt, I would regret that for the rest of my life,” he said.

The confidence has helped take him to places he never imagined. Brent was actively involved in the local Scout council’s Order of the Arrow and was a staff member at Camp Karoondinha for several years — most recently as director of aquatics.

Now, Brent is entering his sixth year serving in the U.S. Navy and is stationed in Italy. During his various tours, he has been to China, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai, the Phillipines, Hawaii, Bahrain and Iraq — “literally everywhere,” he said.

But for Brent, the journey started with a first step, and Scouting was the perfect springboard.

“Scouting is a way of life that lasts for generations,” he said. “It isn’t just Boy Scouting. It’s a brotherhood — a fraternity, if you will — that gives kids the moral foundation and confidence to do great things.”

For information about the Susquehanna Council of the Boy Scouts of America, go to http://councils.scouting.org/Council533.aspx or contact the council office at 326-5121.

~ by zaktansky on November 20, 2011.

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