During the past 15 years, two proud parents have watched all seven of their sons receive the pinnacle award in the Royal Rangers program.
Steve Butler, a retired Air Force colonel, and his wife Kathy currently live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Of their eight children, their seven sons, who range in age from 15 to 28, have earned the Gold Medal of Achievement.
The Butlers discovered Royal Rangers while attending Radiant Church in Colorado Springs in 1991. Due to Steve's Air Force assignments, the family moved frequently from 1985 until his retirement in 2012, and Steve says Royal Rangers gave his sons a way to consistently find friends.
"Finding a Christ-centered Boy Scout-like program was very appealing to us," Steve says. "Regardless of where we went, if there was an AG church with a Ranger outpost, it gave the boys an immediate set of friends and a rapport there."
Butler says his sons often would help each other through the program, and a little competition -- he calls it the "brother factor" -- helped motivate the younger ones.
To earn the GMA, a ranger must complete a combination of skill merits, Bible merits, leadership merits, and a capstone project.
Karl Fleig, national Royal Rangers director, says earning the GMA takes commitment. He says less than five percent of all rangers complete it.
"As they're going through this, they're learning skills, they're learning Scriptures, and they're learning leadership," Fleig says. "A boy who goes through the GMA is on a very established track of mentorship."
Over the years, Steve has lost count of the number of campouts he's attended. He says he's also accumulated a lot of good memories.
"They usually are tied to a campout, from finding snakes in your shelters to catching a porcupine to getting soaked and turning a canoe over," he says.
Today, four of the Butler boys are pursuing careers in the Air Force. Zachery, 28, is a combat rescue officer. Joshua, 27, is an F-16 pilot, and Jeremey, 24, is in pilot training. Nathaniel, 21, is in his sophomore year at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Samuel, 18, Caleb, 16, and Seth, 15, are still in high school.
Pictured: Butler family, 2009