Cody Rowe

Cody Rowe earned his Eagle Scout rank recently by building two flag retirement boxes.

Cody Rowe has been in the Boy Scouts of America since first joining the Cub Scouts in the third grade, and he enjoys Scouting for a variety of reasons.

“I enjoy being outside and doing what we do,” Cody said. “I like the backpacking and the high adventure.”

But he also held another passion throughout his years of scouting, that being the American flag.

“I’ve always been real passionate about the flag,” Cody said.

But Cody, now a senior at Monroe Area High School and a member of Boy Scout Troop 705 out of First Presbyterian Church of Monroe, said he noticed one thing about how people treated the flag that really began to bother him.

“A lot of people don’t know how to properly maintain and dispose of them,” Cody said.

According to the U.S. Flag Code, once a flag begins to show open signs of wear and tear, it should be retired, but even then there are stipulations.

The star-spangled banner is not meant to be simply thrown away or dumped in a rubbish bin. Instead, the flag should be formally burned as a sign of respect for its service.

In Monroe, the American Legion Post 64 holds an annual flag retirement ceremony each year on Flag Day, burning dozens of distressed flags en masse in a formal ceremony dedicated to destroying the used flags with highest honors.

Cody wanted to ensure more flags would receive such treatment in the future and remembered a project he had previously done as a high school sophomore along with his troop and decided to expand upon it.

Two years earlier, Cody had helped build a flag retirement box, where people could drop off used flags and they would be held until they could be properly destroyed as decreed in the Flag Code.

Looking for a new project to embark upon to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honor offered by the Boy Scouts of America, Cody recalled that box and knew he had his project.

“I did one as a sophomore with my troop,” Cody said. “I did two for my Eagle project.”

Cody approached both the American Legion Post 64 and the Walton County Recycling Center and gained permission to build a box to place at each location.

He also approached several local businesses, including Custom Wood Interiors and Home Depot, which donated all the materials he would need for the boxes. Accolades, in Monroe, also chipped in, agreeing to engrave the plaques which go on the front of each box, again fully gratis.

Then came the hard work.

“It took me about five workdays to build both boxes,” Cody said. “That represented about 106 hours of work.”

 The boxes were then taken to their new homes and installed. The box at the recycling center rests on wheels, allowing it be moved easily, while the box at the American Legion building was attached to the wall, making it a permanent installation near the entrance of the post.

Cody said the boxes now give people options on how to dispose of their ragged flags once the wear and tear becomes irreversible.

“You go to drop it off and just leave it in one of these boxes,” Cody said “When they’re filled up, the American Legion will retire the flags.”

Cody will formally be named an Eagle Scout later this month and he said he’s proud to have his project out in the community and offering a service to the public.

He also said he’s proud of himself for completing the project and earning the title of Eagle Scout at last.

“It feels good,” he said. “I’m glad I did it.”

Stephen Milligan is a staff writer for The Walton Tribune. He lives in Monroe and is a graduate of the University of Georgia.