DEL HAVEN - Many people don't know how to properly retire an American flag, according to Zachary DuFault, which led him to reassemble a barren strip of land in Cape May County Park South into something useful.
For his Eagle Scout project, DuFault, a senior at Lower Cape May Regional High School, fabricated an American flag burning station on the strip of land around the park's circle for cars. After over one year of work, DuFault and his troop invited area lawmakers, public officials and community members to the site's opening and first retirement ceremony Aug. 17.
After over three months, the station has gained attention from organizations for ceremonies, where they bring an American flag to the park, on Bayshore Road, in Del Haven, disassemble it, and burn its pieces inside a metal cylinder surrounded by a garden with fresh compost before burying its ashes, as a symbol of honor. DuFault hopes more scheduled ceremonies will emerge.
"I would like it to be used by everyone who wants to learn how the flag should be treated," the 17-year-old said, in an interview with the Herald at the station. "I would love it if some of the organizations would, not so much push it out, but almost create a seminar, or something like that."
When he started planning his Eagle Scout project over one year ago, DuFault knew he wanted to commence a project that would be meaningful to area veterans.
Originally, the teen planned to construct a vegetable garden at a Vineland veterans home. Those plans fell through due to a staffing change. Therefore, it was back to the think tank.
DuFault observed several flags being burned, such as one in the back of a bonfire on a local beach and in an oil container. Although those groups were holding the ceremony, they weren't honorable enough for DuFault, so he acted.
"He felt it (American flag) deserved its own place," Tracey DuFault, Zachery DuFault's mother, said.
Working to earn an Eagle Scout badge isn't always easily manageable, especially for the soon-to-be high school graduate. He enjoys many things most teens do, like spending time with friends and going to school five days a week, all while taking college courses through Atlantic Cape Community College.
Making the job more strenuous was coping with the Covid pandemic's forced changes. Other than needs for mask-wearing and social distancing, the DuFaults were, like most Eagle Scout projects, tasked to find resources.
Ernie Troiano II, Wildwood's former mayor, offered to contribute brick to the project, but Covid's economic impact set him back with work. Veterans’ organizations weren't an option for funding, either, because many weren't meeting.
Unprecedented conflicts called for unprecedented methods, including donations having to be taken by post mail.
The project's timing between the pandemic caused many stressful nights for the family, but despite setbacks for completing the project and scrapping plans to host the first ceremony on Memorial Day, the flag-retirement station is available for everyone.
Visitors to the park will find it toward the south end, with the metal cylinder inside a brick structure. A local welder crafted a special top, with writing and an American flag carved into it.
Anyone can visit the park to perform the ceremony. They only need to call Cape May County's Parks Department for the keys to unlock the cylinder.
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