By Hayley Kappes
Killeen Daily Herald
Sean Cook knew retiring worn-out American flags required a proper ceremony, other than burial in a ditch.
So he dedicated his Eagle Scout project to improving retirement for old American flags at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen.
Sean's project, an American flag incinerator, was officially dedicated Saturday at the cemetery in front of a small crowd of Sean's fellow Boy Scouts, family and members of the community.
With the help of his father, Steve, and scout master, Sean began fundraising for the installation of a flag incinerator at the cemetery.
"All we had was a dirt pit that we had dug up," Sean said. "They needed a better place to do this because it is the best flag in the world."
It took him roughly six months to raise $6,500, enough to cover the entire project's cost.
Sean said he earned half the project's cost after requesting donations from the Rotary Club of Killeen. The rest was gained from family members, friends, local businesses and door-to-door donations.
"I didn't meet a single person who wasn't willing to help in some way," he said.
Retired Lt. Col. Art Trujillo, a member of the Killeen Independent School District Board of Trustees, attended the flag dedication ceremony.
"Some Eagle Scout projects are quite extensive, it really varies," said Trujillo, a former Eagle Scout. "I'm friends with Sean's family, and I know he's a very dynamic kid."
Sean's father, Steve, is the assistant scout master of his son's troop.
"I was hopeful that he could raise the funds, that was the biggest concern," Steve said. "The community was so supportive and donated their time, materials and money and made it a reality pretty quickly."
The Cooks have a tradition of service at Fort Hood.
Steve grew up in Killeen when his father was stationed here, and was himself stationed at Fort Hood two separate times before retiring as an officer.
The Cook's oldest son, Brian, becomes a second lieutenant after he graduates from Texas A&M University in August, and will eventually serve at Fort Hood.
Steve said scouting taught Sean the meaning of community service and hard work.
"Sean's passionate, he's a patriot," Steve said. "He knew this wasn't the right way to retire American flags."
Sean has a couple of merit badges left to complete, and a booklet documenting his work, which must be approved by his scout master before he becomes an Eagle Scout.
He wants to study political science or education at A&M after high school, then continue his family's legacy and join the Army.
"I plan to stay in Texas for the rest of my life, so I can always come back to this and see what I did when I was 17-years-old," Sean said.
Contact Hayley Kappes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559.
For more information
Call the office of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery for more information on retiring flags at the incinerator, at (254) 616-1770. Flags cannot be burned if a county-wide burn ban is in effect.