Eagle Scout project keeps flame burning in honor of veterans

Eagle Scout project keeps flame burning in honor of veterans

It took close to a year of hard work and determination, but with help from local businesses and his fellow scouts of Troop 220, newly promoted Eagle Scout Travis Leblanc of Vidor persevered and on Memorial Day 2016 was ready to dedicate his eternal flame project to the Lions Club Veterans Memorial Park “Fields of Freedom.”

Travis, 18, graduated just a few days earlier, and was at the Vidor Lions Club Memorial Day celebration May 30 to dedicate the new eternal flame, the project he took on to become a full-fledged Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Eagle Scout – the highest rank in the program.

Lisa Aery is the advancement chairman for Travis’s Boy Scout troop, and her husband is scout master. She said when Travis heard he could build the eternal flame as his Eagle Scout project, he was immediately excited by the prospect.

“The troop was helping the Lions Club with the park rededication ceremony, and some of the Lions Club members were talking about future enhancements,” Aery recalled. “Travis is over here talking with a friend, and he hears ‘eternal flame,’ and he jumps over there and says, ‘What’s that? I want to do it.’ He’d reached the age where he needed to do an Eagle Scout project, and so we talked with him a little bit, and he said that’s what I want to do.”

In order to advance to Eagle Scout, scouts must meet certain criteria outlined by BSA.

1. Scouts must be active in their troop, team, crew or ship for a period of at least six months after achieving the rank of Life Scout.

2. They must demonstrate that they live by the principles of the Scout Oath and Scout Law in their daily lives, and provide references, like employers and parents, who can attest to that fact.

3. Scouts must earn a total of 21 merit badges, including certain specified badges, like first aid.

They must then complete a community service project, something meant to enhance the local community. Some have built benches, others gazebos, but Travis built the eternal flame, a unique and beautiful memorial to veterans.

Travis long aspired to become an Eagle Scout, and his interest in the scouts began before he was even old enough to join, Aery said.

“He actually started with Boy Scouts before he could even be a scout,” she related. “He came to the meeting with his brother, who was a Cub Scout. When we were talking about working toward Eagle, I said, ‘What makes you want to be an Eagle Scout?’ And, he said, ‘My brother’ – seeing him in scouts and following him. His brother never had the chance to make Eagle Scout. Life situations came along. Not a lot of scouts reach Eagle Scout. I think it’s about 6 percent. That is a very small number.”

“I heard ‘eternal’ and ‘flame,’” Travis said, smiling. “I didn’t know what it was, but it sounded fun.”

Aery said the Lions Club was on board and told Travis to write up a proposal, bring it to their committee meeting, and they would see what could be done to get the ball rolling – or, in this case, the flame burning.

Travis said being a scout has greatly enriched his life.

“Being in the scouts has done a lot for me,” he asserted. “I’m home-schooled, so this is one of my social things, and it’s so much fun. We go camping. We learn so much. We go to museums, campouts, go swimming, scuba diving – just so much learning.”

Boy Scouts has helped him come out of his shell, Travis said.

“I used to be super quiet when I first got into Troop 220 transferring from Cub Scouts,” he remembered. “Then, I was put into a leadership position. It just boosted my confidence, and then I knew I could do stuff.”

Aery said placing shy scouts in leadership positions is a technique Scout Masters often use to encourage confidence and improve social skills, just what Travis and other scouts like him need.

Travis said he has had a lot of fun in the scouts, and has had some interesting experiences, like a situation he and a friend encountered while working on wilderness survival.

“My friend Justin and I put tarps over our bamboo tents so our stuff wouldn’t get wet,” said Travis. “We were just laying there, and in the middle of the night we heard loud rustling noises. We were like, ‘What is that?’ I said, ‘Grab your flashlight, quickly.’”

Justin grabbed the light, and the boys leaned up to look, half expecting to see a bear or some other wild animal tearing through their tent. They were surprised and a little amused by what they saw instead.

“Their dog was wrapped up in our tent,” said Travis. “It scared us and ripped part of our tent apart, but we got him out.”

At the May 30 ceremony, Travis dedicated the eternal flame to the park. Vidor Lions Club representatives then presented him with an award lauding his contribution to the community, a memorial that will hopefully shine for generations to come.