What happens when Old Glory needs to be retired? A Norman Eagle Scout candidate has the answer.
Norman North High School student and Life Scout Calder Blackman, 16, undertook a patriotic Eagle Scout project in August 2017 to create a dropbox for old flags.
Blackman said Cleveland County Commissioner Darry Stacy approached his Boy Scout Troop, Troop 217, after he received a cardboard box for American flag retirements from the National Association of Counties. He felt that the flags deserved a proper dropbox, so Blackman decided to pursue the project.
Blackman said the box is a need in the community and residents often bring flags to Troop 217 — based out of St Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, 3939 W. Tecumseh Road — since it is a site that can properly retire the flag.
He said the American flag is a symbol and "it's wrong to mistreat it. It's something I'm happy to do."
He funded the project using money he collected from popcorn fundraisers over his six years as a Scout: $523. His final product is a tall, four-wheeled oak box.
Following a presentation to the commissioners Monday, the box was installed at the county treasurer's office on the first floor of the Cleveland County Courthouse. The Boy Scout Troop will empty the box and collect the flags periodically.
He said fellow Scouts helped him build the box.
Calder's father, Geoff, who has been Troop 217's Scoutmaster for six years, showed the troop how to work with wood and use tools and equipment to build the dropbox. However, the Scouts assembled it themselves.
Geoff said he suggested the possibility of buying a box and painting it, but his son wanted to go further.
"I'm really proud that he followed through. He really wanted to build it by hand," Geoff said. "He's done everything he set out to do."
Calder said he spent 314 hours total on the project.
His mother, Mandy, said this included some work during holiday weekends and spring break, and it was a challenge to fit in with school and other activities.
"I'm very proud. He undertook a big project. I think it turned out really well," she said.
Tom Hollingsworth, assistant Troop 217 Scoutmaster, explained how Eagle Scout projects are approved. He said after a Scout approaches them with a project, it is reviewed to see if it meets the community's needs and if it fits with the spirit of learning that Boy Scouts offers. He compared the projects to a senior capstone experience.
Hollingsworth helped provide instruction and oversight on the drop box project, as well.
"It's very important for boys to achieve these goals," he said, emphasizing that it takes time and effort to achieve the Eagle Scout rank, and it teaches important life lessons.
Troop 217 Eagle Scout Sam Shepelwich was in attendance Monday. He supported Calder during his project, just as Calder did with his.
"It's a really big accomplishment," Shepelwich said. "It's lots of hard work, and it feels great when you're done."
During Monday's meeting, commissioners praised Calder and the flag retirement dropbox.
"It's a great project and is a service to the constituency," Stacy said.
In addition to Boy Scout Troop 217, American Legion Post 88, 710 E. Main St., also accepts and retires worn flags regularly.
Carl Ellison, American Legion accredited veteran services officer, said the post receives hundreds of flags a year.
"People fly flags a lot longer than they should sometimes," he said.
Amil Lyon, a Venture Crew advisor with the Tri-City Gun Club, said residents also can call local Boy Scout Troops to see if they will accept worn flags. Venture Crew is a separate and senior division of Boy Scouts of America.