Eagle Scout Schmidt completes community project for flag retirement
In time for Flag Day last week, Pratt Eagle Scout Luke Schmidt, assisted by troop leaders and fellow Boy Scouts from Troop 201, secured two flag retirement receptacles, a multi-year culmination of work. Schmidt placed two mail-box type containers on the east and west side of Third Street just east of the American Legion building in Pratt.
"I've been working at this project for three years," Schmidt said. "It took a long time to find suitable boxes that we could have painted that would serve as secure places to accept old, worn-out flags."
As an Eagle Scout, Schmidt needed a community service project to complete for merit that would benefit an organization other than his own Scout troops. His project to create and place flag retirement receptacles was a piggy-back off his older brother Mark Schmidt's project in 2019 to plan and erect a fire pit used to properly retire United States flags.
"We've had several ceremonies at the burn pit over at Green Sports Complex to take care of flags," Schmidt said. "But we continue to have many donations and needed a good way to provide an accessible point for that."
He said that donated flags sometimes came from family members of veterans who had passed on or from businesses or people who needed to replace worn flags that had been flying outside their place of residence.
Boy Scout Troop 201 leader George Stevens, who helped set up the concrete placement pads for the two flag recepticle boxes in Pratt last week, said that he had seven 50-gal. trash bags full of donated flags that needed proper retirement.
"People just give them to me at church," he said. "It will be good to have a convenient place for anyone to drop off a flag they need taken care of now."
Stevens and David Schmidt, Boy Scout Troop 201 leader and Luke Schmidt's father, were both integrally involved with Luke's efforts to find appropriate boxes for his flag retirement project. All three wrote letters and contacted postal service personnel, scoured trade magazines and searched for container prospects.
"I needed something that would be secure, look nice - be able to be painted, and would last in weather conditions," Luke Schmidt said.
He said he tried options all over the United States from the U.S. Postal Service and even Fed-Ex organization, sometimes waiting weeks and months for responses. He finally found two containers he could have painted and shipped from Pennsylvania.
The final cost of the project was $4,000, supported by several donors. Schmidt said he was very thankful to have donors respond to his requests, but still needed to raise a bit more money to finish paying for the concrete pads and placement costs. Those who have already donated to his Eagle Scout project include: Pratt Elks Lodge #1451, Pratt Kiwanis Club, Pratt Optimist Club, Lisa Perez Miller, Darryl E. Schmidt, Alice Kinsey (in memory of Betty Curd), Karen S. Cloutier, Dan Gillig/State Farm Insurance, Pratt Rotary Club, Sarah Jane Russell, Bud Grimes, American Legion Post #86, Roger Slief, George E. Stevens and David Stitt.
Local Pratt veteran Bill Coonfield, who happened to be scooting by when Schmidt and his troop were installing the flag retirement boxes last week on Third Street, said it made him very happy to see something like that going up.
"We have people bringing flags to the Legion all of the time," Coonfield said. "We needed an nice place to accept those. It makes me very happy to see these young men doing this, careing about the flag and it's significance. This make my heart feel good."
Schmidt, who was assisted last Monday by fellow scouters Cohen Flanders, Addison Hopkins, Ryan Haas and Cade Hopkins, said flags could now be dropped off at any time of day or night in the receptacles near the front of the American Legion in Pratt. He and other Boy Scout members would then be responsible to pick them up and gather them for retirement ceremonies at the burn pit at Green Sports Complex on a regular basis.
"We do require that the flags be properly folded when they go into the boxes," Stevens said.
Schmidt said he joined the Pratt Boys Scouts/Cub Scouts organization when he was seven years old. He is now 16 and a student at Skyline Schools.