Austin Dilts ’22 (Culver) celebrated July 4 by officially finishing his Eagle Scout project: the construction of a permanent site to retire worn United States flags. The project coincided with the rededication of the Veteran’s Memorial Park in the Culver Masonic Cemetery.
Dilts is a life scout with Troop 730 of Winamac, Indiana, and part of Culver Academies’ Troop 261. He decided to construct the permanent flag retirement site as “a personal tribute to my grandfather, J.B. Montgomery, who served in the Korean War.” Montgomery died in December, 2017. He said the project is also a tribute to all veterans.
He explained that he built the flag retirement site “to be a symbol of everlasting strength.” Stamped into each corner of the concrete is an image of the American flag. The project coincided with the remodeling of the Veteran’s Memorial Park, which was originally dedicated on July 4, 1976. The park has hosted “dozens of Veterans Day ceremonies and dozens of Memorial Day ceremonies,” he explained, but it had fallen in disrepair.
Austin’s father, Chuck Dilts, is the commander of the Finney-Shilling VFW Post 6919 in Culver. He said the park was originally funded and constructed by members of the post and its auxiliary. The renovation was done by members of the post with the support of more than a dozen area businesses and non-profit organizations. Kingsmen Concrete supplied the concrete for both the flag retirement site and the memorial renovation.
Dilts started planning for the project a year ago. He approached Frank Setola, who was the commander at the time, if Post 6919 would sponsor the project. But actual work on the project didn’t begin until a month ago and the physical labor was compressed into the past two weeks. He received a lot of help from 10 scouts representing troops 730, 621, and 777. “A lot of them came out multiple times,” Dilts said.
After the rededication of the park, a worn flag was retired by ceremoniously cutting one stripe off the flag then laying on the open fire, followed by Dilts reading a famous patriotic quote. After all 13 stripes were burned, the field of blue and stars was placed on top of the flag by four scouts.
“Each state is being represented by a star on a field of blue, which signifies a new constellation being formed,” Dilts read. “As we place it in the fire, let it burn brightly and remind us how well our flag represents our country.”
Members of the post then conducted a 21-gun salute, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by the audience, and taps was played to finish the ceremony.
While there are different ways to properly retire an American flag, Dilts said he chose the ceremony he was most familiar with. He added that Post 6919 will be in charge of retiring flags in the future. Anyone with an old flag they want to retire may drop it off at the post.