When Justin Katz was a fourth-grader, he set a goal as a Cub Scout that he eventually would earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
Now a senior at , Katz is just a couple of months away from accomplishing that goal. First, though, he needs to complete a big project that he has been planning for months.
Katz is collecting tattered American flags, which he then will retire during a special ceremony at a Feb. 17 Scout campout in Oregon, Ill. He set out the collection boxes this week at each of the and the . Another box soon may be placed at a local church.
"I'm very ecstatic that the boxes are out," said Katz, a member of Troop 92 out of Hawthorn Woods.
The road to becoming an Eagle Scout is a long one. Before an Eagle Scout candidate even can reach the project stage, Katz said the candidates must rise through all of the Scout ranks. For the Star, Life and Eagle ranks, Scouts must be in each troop for at least six months and hold a leadership role. Katz said he is the "Order of the Arrow" representative for Troop 92.
He added that to become an Eagle Scout, candidates must earn 21 merit badges. Twelve of those are required; the remaining badges are selected from hundreds of others based on a Scout's interests.
The project is the next step. Katz said he selected the flag retirement project with his Eagle coordinator. He started the planning process about three months ago. The entire project must be documented — in photos and paperwork.
"I have a whole binder full of project-related items," said Katz, adding that once his project is finished, he must submit that binder for review.
"It's a lot of work," Katz said of his Eagle Scout project. "I knew what I was going to do today after school before I went to bed last night."
Katz said he's just been focusing on one step at a time to keep from getting too overwhelmed. Right now, he's just focused on collecting flags. He and some fellow Scouts plan to stand outside from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Jan. 21 to pass out fliers about retiring flags.
"If it just doesn't look like the American flag that you picture, it probably shouldn't be flown anymore," said Katz. He said there are many specifics regarding when to retire a flag, including if the ends are frayed or the flag is discolored. "It's commonsense."
The actual retirement of a flag has its own set of rules, Katz said.
"The flag has to be considered a living item and it has to be treated like that," he said.
Katz said the flag retirement must be done in an honorable manner. The flag has to be burned, and someone needs to be saluting the flag while it is burning. The ashes then must be buried in a place where they will not be disturbed.
While a ceremony will be held in February, Katz said the boxes will stay out indefinitely and more ceremonies will be held later. An Eagle Scout project, Katz said, must leave a lasting impact.
Once his project is done, Katz will submit his binder to his Eagle coordinator. The project then must be approved by the district and at a national level, and then Troop 92 must approve it. Katz will then go before a board of review. He hopes that if all goes well, he will earn his Eagle Scout rank in March.
"I will be extraordinarily happy when it's all done and I can say I'm an Eagle Scout," said Katz. "Then I can use the motto, 'Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.'"
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