Eagle Scout project to honor WWI veterans - Republic-Times | News

Eagle Scout project to honor WWI veterans

By on November 22, 2017 at 10:30 am

Sam Thomas

Shortly after receiving a commendation from the mayor for his life-saving deed during a ski trip last year, Waterloo Boy Scout Sam Thomas went to work on his next triumph. 

The 15-year-old had close to 80 merit badges and plenty of leadership experience under his belt when he started. But what he didn’t know, at least right away, was what his Eagle project would entail.

“I like history,” the four-year scout said of what led to him discovering the right project. “My mom knows that well. And I got into WWII re-enacting a lot.”

“He has a real interest in the military in general,” added his mother, Michelle Thomas.

Knowing of his interests, Waterloo Boy Scout troop leader John Durrer referred Sam to a project Mayor Tom Smith had expressed he wanted completed. Sam will now work to plant bronze grave markers at every WWI soldier’s grave at Waterloo City Cemetery.

According to his calculations, Sam will be doing that for 60 graves at a total cost of $6,400. He has raised $600, with $300 coming from the city and $300 from the Waterloo Walmart.

“I feel like this will help Waterloo just for the history and the families related to (the deceased soldiers),” Sam said.

Additionally, the project will serve to commemorate next year’s 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. The United States joined the Allied Front in 1917 with more than 4.7 million service members, 116,516 of whom died during the war.

His plan is to complete the project in time for Veterans Day 2018. In the shape of a badge, each marker reads “USA” on the top and the text “Veterans of World War I” wraps around the sides and bottom. The name of the soldier and his unit will go in the center of the marker.

“I would really like to have it done well before the (Veterans Day) deadline,” he said.

For each marker, Sam will dig out a hole at each grave site, while also using a can full of cement to hold the marker in place. He is working with the mayor and the Monroe County Genealogical Society to complete the project.

Durrer, who praised Sam’s leadership, compared the project to that of Waterloo Boy Scout Shane Douglas’ Eagle project. Shane planted memorial markers at the grave sites of each known Civil War veteran in Waterloo in 2015.

While his project includes only Waterloo, a family reached out to Sam to also plant a marker at WWI veteran George Luhr’s grave at Zoar United Church of Christ Cemetery in Columbia, and he obliged. Contact Waterloo City Hall at 939-8600 for more information or to make a donation to the project.

“Sam in general is a pretty cool kid. He’s always wanting to help out,” Durrer said. “He’s kind of seeing what you’re going to need without you having to ask.

“It’s a great feature — a great thing to have. He’s also always very positive and a great leader to the scouts.”

Sean McGowan

Sean is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite the relentless peer pressure coming from the rest of the Republic-Times staff. He and his wife, Jacqui, have been married for two years. Originally from the west suburbs of Chicago, Sean and his wife moved down to Normal to attend Illinois State University and stayed central Illinois residents for the past four years. email:sean@republictimes.net