2017-08-09 / Featured / News

Boy Scout gives grand old flag a brand-new burn pit


Boy Scout Ian Brown built a stone burn pit at the William E. Bullock American Legion Post 354 to properly dispose of worn and tattered American flags. ASH DANIEL Boy Scout Ian Brown built a stone burn pit at the William E. Bullock American Legion Post 354 to properly dispose of worn and tattered American flags. ASH DANIEL It was a pit for burning old, ragged American flags that were ready to be retired; but the pit itself was looking pretty old and ragged. That’s the conclusion 10-year-old Cub Scout Ian Brown came to while attending a Boy Scout recruitment outing to Midlothian’s American Legion Post 354 in 2011. He decided then and there that when it came time to do his Eagle Scout Service Project – the culminating step in a scout’s leadership training – he would build a new flag-burning pit for Post 354. That is, if no one else beat him to it. To his surprise, no one did. Today, William E. Bullock American Legion Post 354 boasts a brand-new burn pit, and Brown, a 16-year-old rising junior at Midlothian High School, is just a few merit badges away from achieving the rank of Eagle.

Brown says his desire to improve this last stop for so many area flags was inspired by his maternal grandfather, Walter Lee Carter, a World War II Army veteran who died five years ago at 89, and motivated by other family members with military and law enforcement backgrounds.

U.S. Code Title 4 Chapter 1 states that an American flag “that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” Post 354 receives 500 to 1,000 American flags annually that are unserviceable and need to be properly retired, according to Post Commander Bill Phillips.

“The previous burn pit was falling apart and showed signs of deterioration from weather and the extreme heat generated from burning nylon material,” Phillips said in an email. “Ian took on this project because he felt flags which had served our country deserved to be retired in a burn pit that looked as honorable as the service bestowed upon them.

“His passion and commitment was clearly evident when we first met,” he continued. “We are extremely proud of Ian and we look forward to using the new fire pit this fall.”

Post 354 paid for the materials, and Brown’s neighbor Luke Marshall, a local landscaper, was his project coach. The raised brick burn pit was built in a day in May with roughly 150 man-hours provided by Brown’s fellow Troop 876 members and friends.

Brown considers the project the “most notable” accomplishment of his young life. “In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, I still feel like you should work for the good of the country,” he said.

In Brown’s mind, the American flag is symbolic of the nation’s freedom and the price paid to achieve and maintain it.

“It means a lot,” he said. “It’s not free. It’s something you’ve got to fight for.”

Brown said he’s looking forward to his junior year in high school and taking a course in residential carpentry, wrestling for the Trojans and maintaining his B average in the classroom. His current ambition is to enlist in the military.

“I’m really proud of him,” said his mother, Tara Brown. “He’s a normal 16-year-old kid with normal 16-year-old dilemmas. Yet he’s really committed to our country and wanting to serve it in some way…. He thinks beyond himself, and that’s nice.”

Brown’s father, Dave Brown, was also a Boy Scout, and while he never achieved the rank of Eagle Scout himself, he knows it takes leadership skills to become one. It’s an honor held by the likes of former President Gerald R. Ford, astronaut Neil Armstrong, Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and filmmaker Steven Spielberg. Ian will be awarded the rank later this summer.

“That’s what the whole goal here is – to get him to a point where he looks at other people and says, ‘How can I serve?’” Dave Brown said. “It’s not the Eagle rank. It was everything it took to get you there, and did you do it at the minimum or did you do it at the maximum? And Ian has done it at the maximum level, and so that is what I’m really proud of.” ¦

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