The Boy Scout merit badge sash is a formal uniform piece that displays the merit badges the scout earns during his scouting adventure. It is the only way a scout can show the individual merit badge accomplishments earned; he can wear the sash during ceremonies, dinners or a troop court of honor. The sash is designed as a permanent display of the badges, one that can be kept by the scout as memorabilia for a lifetime.
The merit badge sash accommodates the many merit badges a scout will earn during the years he is working toward his Eagle Scout rank. A scout may wear up to six merit badges on the right sleeve of the long sleeve uniform shirt before obtaining a sash, but most scouts wait to display them on the sash.This is because their goal is at least the 21 required badges for the Eagle Scout rank; when the scout earns his seventh merit badge, all seven of the merit badges must be moved to the sash.
The Boy Scout merit badge sash was introduced in 1924 to accommodate the wearing of the 57 available merit badges at the time. There was a narrow version that would accommodate two merit badges in each row and a wider version, which is used today, that would accommodate three across. Until 1945 the sash was tan, then khaki until 1979. In 1979, only the wider version was available in the olive green color.
The merit badge sash is worn during formal scouting events. Only one sash may be worn at a time, over the right shoulder and across the body to the left side. Merit badges are affixed to the front (and the back if necessary) in rows of three. There is no prescribed order for merit badges, although most attach them as they are earned. A Venture/Varsity letter may be attached to the bottom front corner, and temporary patches may be affixed to the back of the sash, although badges of rank are not authorized.
The highest rank in Boy Scouts, Eagle Scout, requires an individual to earn 21 merit badges. There are more than 100 merit badges available for scouts to earn from an assortment of categories including sports, science, business and outdoorsmanship. Camping, first aid and world citizenship are among the most popular merit pages required for Eagle, while leatherwork, art and wilderness survival are among the most popular not required. Hundreds of badges have been discontinued or replaced over the decades. The decision to add, replace, change the name or or discontinue a badge is made with input from a panel of scouts and parents. The newest three badges as of 2014 are sustainability, game design and programming. Also in 2014, digital technology replaced computers.
The merit badge sash is only approved for formal events and not flag ceremonies because the sash physically gets in the way and falls off the uniform. Approved for the official Boy Scout Uniform, the merit badge sash pin can be attached to the sash and shoulder epaulet to better secure the sash.
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