by ELENA DURNBAUGH
Thirteen-year-old Douglas Gettleson thought military veterans and the nation’s flag deserved something more than a small, cracked fire pit where flags could be retired at the American Legion in Utica.
For his Eagle Scout project, the Eppler Junior High School eighth-grader is building a ceremonial flag retirement site at American Legion #351. When the project is finished, Gettleson will become one of the youngest boys in Michigan to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
Twice a year, the Utica American Legion post hosts a flag retirement ceremony in conjunction with Gettleson’s troop. Gettleson noticed the humble condition of the Legion’s fire pit and wanted to do something to improve it.
“This project has been in my head ever since I started scouting,” Gettleson said.
Last weekend, Gettleson installed the new firepit with the help of family, friends, and members of his troop. The installation is bigger than the old fire pit and is surrounded by a pathway with stepping stones. Benches, landscaping, and pictured rocks honoring all branches of the military will provide a place for quiet reflection and patriotic occasions.
Gettleson’s father and grandfather are both Navy veterans, so the project had special significance to him.
“I’ve grown up in a very patriotic family,” Gettleson said. “Not only did it mean a lot to the Legion, it meant a lot to me personally.”
A member of Troop #90, Gettleson has been scouting since he was 6 years old. In that time, he has earned 36 badges, held leadership positions within his troop, and has completed National Youth Leadership Training. He is also a member of the Order of the Arrow, the Boy Scout National Honor Society which recognizes those who exemplify Scout values. Gettleson was also selected to represent the state of Michigan at the 2019 Boy Scout World Jamboree in West Virginia.
His dad shared that Gettleson was also recently accepted as a member of National Junior Honor Society at school.
“Douglas has always seemed to be a born leader,” Jenny Gettleson said.
The average age of an Eagle Scout is just over 17 years old, and only two percent of scouts ever earn the rank. Gettleson is taking his accomplishments in stride, though.
“It feels really good. Honestly, it’s just been timing,” he said, adding that he’s grateful for all of the support he’s gotten from his parents. “It’s really nice to be able to rely on them.”
After earning the rank of Eagle Scout, Gettleson plans to continue to be an active scouting member. He said he’s learned a lot about responsibility, leadership, and patience from his time in Boy Scouts so far.
“You progressively learn more,” Gettleson said. “Now, I can give back to the Scouts 100 percent.”
Gettleson hopes that the flag retirement site will become a point of pride in Utica.
“It means a lot because the community sees it,” he said. “The flag is getting buried with honor.”
The site will be officially dedicated at a flag retirement ceremony on Veterans Day, November 11, at 2 p.m. The community is welcome to attend. American Legion Post #351 is located at 46146 Cass Ave in Utica.