When William Martin chose an Eagle Scout project last year, he decided to do something for veterans. He ended up reaching a lot more veterans than he expected.
From Nov. 26 to Dec. 30, Martin, 15, delivered bronze American flags to all five state-run homes for veterans in Louisiana. The flags feature the Pledge of Allegiance written both in standard lettering and in Braille. His research revealed that the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 1 million U.S. veterans will be blind by 2020.
“I didn’t even know this bronze American flag existed until my mom’s friend told her about it,” he said. “I thought it would be a great project.”
And more popular than he imagined.
The bronze flag costs $350, and Martin figured he could raise enough money to buy one for the Louisiana War Veterans Home in Jackson, which is the closest to his Baton Rouge home. He sold wristbands with a slogan he created: “Touch and See,” describing what blind people experience when they read using Braille.
Since the Eagle Scout project includes a leadership component, Martin recruited nine other Boy Scouts to help him. They spoke to community groups about the American flag and their project. Martin coached the Scouts in speaking and they made the presentation to the groups, selling the wristbands and accepting donations. The wristbands cost $3 apiece or two for $5.
Before long, they realized they could put flags in more than one veterans’ home. They raised about $1,800, Martin said. When his mother, Desha Martin, mentioned it on their neighborhood Facebook page, a neighbor they didn’t know anonymously purchased one in memory of a grandson who also had been an Eagle Scout.
Another was donated by the man who designed and produces the flags. Randolph Cabral, of Wichita, Kansas, started the Kansas Braille Transcription Institute and created the flag in honor of his father, a World War II veteran who lost his sight.
The flag plaque measures 13.25 inches by 12 inches and weighs 15 pounds. The Pledge of Allegiance is in English type on the smooth sections that represent the flag’s white stripes, and in Braille on darker sections which depict red stripes.
“His (Cabral’s) dream is to put one of these in every government building in the United States,” Desha Martin said. “So, I guess William helped him a little bit along his way by doing this.”
The Jackson facility got the first flag, and during Christmas vacation, Martin, a sophomore at Catholic High School, delivered the flags to war veterans homes in Reserve, Jennings, Monroe and Bossier City.
By the time Martin delivered the last flag on Dec. 30, he had already been named an Eagle Scout by the board that reviewed his project, which had only anticipated placing a flag at the Jackson facility.