BRISTOL BOROUGH >> Marine Sgt. Stephen Winther snapped a salute as Boy Scouts from Troop 316 lowered the American flag that had flown over the Grundy Library in Bristol. This was no ordinary flag, nor was the occasion an ordinary one.
The November 25th ceremony was a prelude to Andrew Stillman’s Court of Honor, during which he would officially become an Eagle Scout. The flag, folded and presented to Andrew, had flown over the nation’s capital before making its way around the country to mark the many sites the 17-year-old Bristol resident participated in scouting activities.
What made the event particularly poignant was the absence of Andrew’s cousin, Marine Lance Cpl. Brandon Krieger, who had long promised to attend, but deployment overseas spiked that plan. And that’s where Winther came in; joining the crowd of 100 scouts family members and guests around the Grundy flagpole, in Krieger’s stead.
Winther took the additional step of attending Andrew’s Court of Honor - an honor; he called it - held a few blocks away at St. Mark Parish gym.
“I felt a sense of pride to be there to support a Marine Corps family. It was an amazing experience to stand in for one of my Marine brothers,” Winther said.
Lower Bucks County is familiar territory to Winther, a native of Langhorne. He said he knew at the age of four what he wanted to do with his life and realized his dream of entering the Marine Corps after graduating from Neshaminy High School in 2010.
With two tours serving in Afghanistan under his belt, Winther said he understood the comfort of knowing that his family back home was not forgotten. And his parents, Karen and Bob, both always opened their door to young Marines who happened to be in the area.
“It was the same for me, wherever I was. There was always someone to take you in,” he said. “You might hear someone going to, say Kansas, ask around to see if anyone’s (family) lives there. The answer was always yes. There might be just a couch for you, but the doors were open.”
The word “family” takes on new meaning across the country and around the world, whether with telephone calls, cards or letters, Winther said.
Andrew earned the rank of Eagle Scout by earning merit badges that he’s worked on for the past eight years, and by setting up markers on Burlington Island that would help shorten the time it would take police or medical personnel to respond to an emergency.
He started his scouting activities in Troop 212, sponsored by the Grundy Foundation before transferring to the Levittown troop. He was the first scout from Troop 212 to achieve the Eagle Scout rank.
Andrew said he was happy that Winther took the time to attend the ceremonies. His cousin mirrored those feelings.
“I am glad that someone could be there for me. That was awesome,” Krieger said, adding that he would like to meet with Winther to thank him in person, when he comes home from deployment.
Winther hopes to make a career in the military. He married after returning from Afghanistan. His wife, Alyson, is a 2010 graduate of Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster. Winther is currently serving at the Oxford Valley Recruit Sub Station on New Falls Road in Levittown.
“I hope that (Andrew’s family), seeing a Marine there, correlated that Brandon was watching,” Winther said.