Scout donates Braille flag to veterans home _lowres

Photo provided by Beth Dawson -- Louisiana Society Children of the American Revolution's Desha Martin, senior president; Life Scout Byrne Kennedy, Boy Scout Troop 7; Life Scout Alex Helwig, Troop 7; Eagle Scout William Martin, Troop 7; Gus Freche, assistant administrator at the Louisiana War Veterans Home in Jackson; and Zachary Mellinger, LSCAR corresponding secretary, from left, at the War Veterans Home Nov. 16. William Martin presented the home with a permanent, bronze, Braille American flag as part of his Eagle Scout project.

Catholic High School sophomore William Martin, a Life Scout in Boy Scout Troop 7 and current president of the Louisiana Society Children of the American Revolution, chose to place a permanent, bronze, American Braille flag at the Louisiana War Veterans Home in Jackson as part of his community service project in pursuing the rank of Eagle Scout.

The effort also served as a project for LSCAR, according to his mother, Desha Martin, who is senior president of the organization.

Martin’s project, a requirement in obtaining the ranking, is in line with Boy Scout ideals of helping people at all times and the ideals of the LSCAR, which honors the United States flag above all others.

According to William’s research and the World Health Organization, about 11.4 million people are blind or visually impaired in America, and the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that by 2020, over 1 million veterans will be blind. Each year, about 47,000 people — one person every 11 minutes — becomes blind in the U.S.

To raise the needed funds for his Eagle Scout project, Martin sold wristbands embossed with the words “Touch and See.” He and fellow Scouts developed a brochure and presentation about the history of the flag and flag etiquette, and talked to various organizations and civic groups in the Baton Rouge area in exchange for donations.

Desha Martin said the Scouts who assisted her son also are working their way to the ranks of Eagle Scout and earned a communication merit badge in the process, which requires making a presentation before a group.

The Catholic High student was so successful in his fundraising efforts, he’s able to donate four additional American Braille flags to the war veterans homes in Bossier City, Jennings, Monroe and Reserve, Desha Martin said.

The Martins will deliver the flags during the Christmas holidays.

Representatives from Boy Scout Troop 7 and LSCAR participated in the Jackson ceremony.

Sophomores Alex Helwig and Byrne Kennedy, also of Troop 7, served in the color guard, presenting and retiring the colors.

Zachary Mellinger, an eighth-grader from Denham Springs and LSCAR’s state corresponding secretary, delivered the invocation and benediction.

William Martin was guest speaker at the flag’s unveiling and presented a check to Gus Freche, assistant administrator at the veterans home. The check represents the remaining funds donated to Martin’s project.

Refreshments were served at a reception following the ceremony, and gift bags were given to residents of the veterans home.

Martin says the Braille flag came into prominence in 2008 after it was officially recognized by the 110th U.S. Congress under the American Braille Flag Memorial Act.

The flags placed at the five war veterans homes in Louisiana will be among 50 sites around the nation to install a bronze American Braille flag in honor of the country’s 1 million blind veterans, Martin said.

Arlington National Cemetery and the 9/11 memorial museum in New York also have bronze Braille American flags, he said.