(Posted April 11, 2022)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Brandon Gargac, 18, grew up with a deep respect for the American flag.
His father, Mitchell Gargac, served 26 years in the U.S. Army and speaks at Veterans Day ceremonies at Norwood Elementary and at Memorial Day services at Hampton Cemetery, both in West Jefferson.
Brandon’s respect for the flag also grew out of his involvement with Boy Scouts of America which teaches participants the rules for handling and displaying the flag (the U.S. Flag Code) and for retiring worn or damaged flags.
With all that, it’s no wonder he chose the installation of a flag collection box as his Eagle Scout project. An Eagle Scout project is one of the major requirements a Scout must complete before earning the highest rank in scouting.
The metal collection box, which sports a photo of a bald eagle with a U.S. flag in the background, is located in front of the gazebo on Main Street, next to West Jefferson’s town hall. Anyone can deposit torn, faded or tattered standard American or Ohio flags in the box. Brandon is working with the West Jefferson American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts to develop a plan for routinely emptying the box and properly disposing of the flags.
For the project, Brandon collected donations through a GoFundMe campaign and Venmo to pay for the box. He also sold Rooster’s restaurant cards. He worked with several different groups to secure permissions and choose a location for the box.
“The project definitely took longer due to the pandemic. Plus, I struggled with time management during the pandemic,” Brandon said. “But once I started working with the West Jefferson village government, they really got it going and made it easy for me.”
Brandon said Brian Farley, West Jefferson’s public service director, and Mayor Ray Martin were especially helpful.
“Ray’s two sons are Eagle Scouts, as well, so he understands the process and made it as easy as possible for me,” he said.
In addition to purchasing the box and working to secure a location with high visibility, Brandon organized a flag collection drive. The event took place at Pat’s Pizza & Pub. Brandon, his fellow Scout members, and friends collected more than 75 flags during the drive. The group also went door to door and collected several more flags.
Brandon is thankful for all the help he received from Scout leaders, community leaders, fellow Scouts, friends and family.
“It took a lot from other people other than me to get the project done,” he said. “I want to thank everyone in the community and surrounding communities for the donations they made to my project.”
Fittingly, Brandon has chosen June 14, Flag Day and the U.S. Army’s birthday, as the date for his Court of Honor, the ceremony at which he will receive his Eagle Scout rank.
Brandon entered the scouting program in first grade as a Cub Scout with Troop 121 in West Jefferson. In sixth grade, he switched to Boy Scout Troop 204 in London.
“Scouts has taught me leadership, and you can make a lot of lifelong friends from Boy Scouts. You will remember these people for the rest of your life,” he said.
Brandon is a senior at Jonathan Alder High School where he played on the golf team for four years and the lacrosse team for two years. This is his first year playing tennis. He also has played tenor saxophone in the marching band for four years and is the band’s vice president. He plays hockey with the Columbus Ice Hockey Club.
Brandon credits Scouts with starting him on the path toward a career. Because of a merit badge he completed, he became interested in aviation. He hopes to become a commercial airplane pilot. On his way to that goal, he plans to study aviation at Bowling Green State University in Ohio or Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. He has earned an Army ROTC scholarship which will cover most of his tuition. When he graduates, he will be a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.
Brandon is the son of Mitchell and Monica Gargac.