In order to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, Robert Bitgood has, with the help of his troop, Troop 22 Cranston, placed collection boxes for American flags ready to be retired in several locations …
In order to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, Robert Bitgood has, with the help of his troop, Troop 22 Cranston, placed collection boxes for American flags ready to be retired in several locations around Cranston for his community service project.
An American Flag that has become too aged or damaged as a symbol of the country is recommended, by tradition, to be put to rest during a ceremony, preferably by burning. This ceremony can be performed by many, but it is not well known that the Scouts are trained to perform this ceremony.
It is Bitgood’s hope that by collecting these flags for retirement he will not only show them the respectful treatment they deserve but will also provide a source of flags deserving of this treatment to teach new scouts how to properly perform the retirement ceremony.
Bitgood began his journey in scouting in 2012 as a Cub Scout 11 years ago. He is now 17 and will be graduating from Cranston East High School next year with plans to go into the plumbing trade, a path the scouts started him on before he joined the plumbing program at the school.
“I went to get a merit badge at Yawgoo and was like ‘This is what I want to do!’,” he laughed. “Then I immediately fact checked all the pipes in the house. Walking around I kept saying that’s wrong, that’s wrong and this should be a Y joint not a T. It caught my interest to the point that I installed a new faucet myself.”
A new faucet at home isn’t all the experience he’s gained so far. Thanks to the program at Cranston East, he has also installed, or helped to install, several water fountains at the school. An interest in plumbing isn’t the only thing he’s gained from his time in the Scouts. Bitgood said he feels like he has grown in many ways thanks to his time with them.
“I like that you get to go camping and make your own meal plan,” Bitgood said. “I like that you get to eat the meals that you make, but you also get to make connections and make friends; People that actually share the same interests.”
Bitgood explained community service projects are meant to help a scout demonstrate leadership and compassion. He has held multiple positions in his troop that helped him to develop his skills in leadership and accomplish this goal.
“It was really simple since I’ve been in leadership positions in my troop before,” Bitgood explained. “I knew how to guide the younger scouts and organize them to get stuff done properly. I’ve also been, after Cub Scouts, a patrol leader when we had more scouts, then I moved on to senior patrol leader before becoming Jr Assistant Scoutmaster.”
As the Jr Assistant Scoutmaster, Bitgood has been helping out the Scoutmaster, his father who is also named Robert, as well as attending meetings in his place during official meetings when needed.
“I remember trying to teach a scout how to do the square knot, and they did it wrong,” Bitgood said as he recalled some of his early days taking on a leadership role.
“He ended up doing it wrong, and it came out as a two-and-a-half hitch. How? I mean how do you go from a square knot to that done perfectly from messing up the easiest knot.? I was amazed.”
His time in scouts has taught him a lot, and this project is one way he hopes to give back to the community that has given him so many opportunities before he moves on to the adult world. Those with American Flags ready to be retired can find his drop boxes at five locations around the city: outside of Central Library, City Hall, at Cranston Vets Memorial Ice Rink, as well as one box each outside of Cranston Fire departments #1 and #6.