NESA Distinguished Service Award: A Rare Honor in Scouting - The National Eagle Scout Association

Scouting Sense

Scouting Sense is a column of guest essays. The opinions expressed are exclusively those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Eagle Scout Association or the Boy Scouts of America.

NESA Distinguished Service Award: A Rare Honor in Scouting

Scouting boasts a plethora of ranks, badges, and awards, well-known to most Scouters. However, some awards remain elusive, rarely adorning a uniform. While Eagle Scout ranks and Eagle Palms receive recognition, they are relatively rare and are earned by youth for their accomplishments. For those Eagle Scouts, rarer still are the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award (DESA), which requires notable adult achievements in one’s vocation for a minimum of 25 years following the attainment of the Eagle badge, and, perhaps the rarest of all – the National Eagle Scout Association’s Distinguished Service Award (NESA-DSA), with fewer than 45 individuals listed as recipients.  

The inaugural NESA-DSAs were presented from 1976 to 1978 to early national leaders of NESA who hailed from the former Knights of Dunamis, the precursor of NESA. Subsequently, between 1982 and 1986, several awards were bestowed upon members of the NESA National Committee. However, the committee disbanded in 1986, with its responsibilities assumed by the NESA Board of Regents, all of whom are Distinguished Eagle Scouts. A handful of these awardees also led local NESA chapters.

The discontinuation of formal local NESA Chapters and the National NESA Committee led to a decrease in eligible recipients for the national-level award. It appeared to have been discontinued after 1988 until the most recent award was presented at the National Order of the Arrow Conference NESA/Eagle Dinner in July 2022.

The original DSA award took the form of a sizable wooden plaque adorned with a large, full-color NESA emblem and an engraved silver or brass plate. Until recently, it was believed to be the sole official BSA distinguished service award lacking a corresponding uniform item like a medal, patch, pin, or knot.

Various proposals for creating a corresponding uniform item, such as a red, white, and blue neck ribbon with a silver eagle pendant, did not gain traction. Some recipients received a prototype red/blue knot on a white background, while another proposed knot resembled the current NESA life member knot with gold trim. Other suggestions included wearing a sterling silver NESA member pin on the existing Eagle knot or a small sterling silver eagle pin similar to the 10 kt gold eagle pin representing the DESA.

Recently, a wearable version of the NESA-DSA was designed and presented to all currently listed recipients. This award takes the form of a neck medal suspended from a blue ribbon, supporting an enameled blue/silver medallion featuring a prominent “flying” Eagle. The presentation kit also includes an enameled lapel pin and a sterling “flying” Eagle knot pin.

Feeling inspired or know of someone who exemplifies these distinguished characteristics? NESA is seeking nominations for the NESA-DSA award. Use the downloadable documents below to view a list of past DSA recipients and obtain the official nomination form. 

Please submit your nominations for the 2023 class by October 31, 2023. Completed nominations can be emailed to


Local NESA Committee Addition or Update Request

Use of this email will be for internal NESA Communications and will not be public facing.
Use of this email will be for internal NESA Communications and will not be public facing.