CHATHAM — Think of them as retirement homes for American flags.
As part of his Eagle Scout project, 17-year-old David Van Sickle of Chatham has made two drop boxes designed to receive old American flags awaiting proper disposal.
“We were getting boxes of flags from the fire department,” he said.
It's not clear how or why the practice started, but people have been bringing old flags to the firehouse for as long as anyone can remember, Fire Chief Peter Connick said. They saved them in a bag or a cardboard box until the Scouts retrieved them.
At regular intervals, and usually during camping trips, local Boy Scouts hold flag retirement ceremonies. Scouts recite various phrases with symbolic meanings before the flag is placed on a campfire.
“It's a respectful way of sending the flag out,” Van Sickle said. As every Boy Scout knows, American flags are symbols, not decorations. “They're the embodiment of the country they stand for,” he said.
The repositories are in place now in the vestibule of the fire department and on the outside wall of the Brown James Buck VFW Post on George Ryder Road, near the entrance on the right side of the building.
Van Sickle started work on the project in June 2016, planning each aspect in minute detail for review by the local Scout council in Hyannis. Next month, a board of review will consider the project's outcome and will interview Van Sickle about his experience as a Scout and his plans for the future. If he passes the review, he'll be scheduled for a “court of honor” where he will receive his Eagle Scout medal.
The boxes were constructed with help from Don at Whiteley Sheet Metal, which donated the materials and lent expertise.
“That was a huge help for the project,” Van Sickle said. Because the decorative markings on the outside of the boxes were donated by Dinan Signs of Hyannis, the project didn't require any fundraising campaign, he said.
Never a Cub Scout, Van Sickle joined the Boy Scouts when he was in fifth grade at the urge of some friends who were already involved.
“They kind of talked it up to me,” he said. He really liked the camping, but later began to appreciate the camaraderie. Selling light sticks at band concerts with the other Scouts, Van Sickle would be approached by teens from all around the country who shared their experiences in Scouting. He also sees the value of the Boy Scouts' code of ethics, which he said can be an important framework for young men during their formative years.
With the flag repositories now in place, Van Sickle is spreading the word in hopes that residents make use of them. It seems like the effort is working; just a few days after it was put in place, the box at the firehouse was about half-filled with tattered flags.