Local teen brings people together
through the American flag
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOSHUA BERRY
Having been surrounded by veterans his entire life, Sparkman High School junior Hunter Goffinett knew when it came to choosing his Eagle Scout project, it had to be veteran oriented.
“My dad is a veteran of the Marines, and my grandpa is a veteran of the Navy,” Goffinett said. “Plus, all of the veterans in the Scouts have led me to even more connections with veterans through American Legion Post 229.”
In fact, the American Legion connects prominently to Goffinett’s project as he constructed the flag retirement pit in the American Legion designated area for veterans in downtown’s Madison Park. “The idea of the flag retirement pit came to me when we had a flag retirement ceremony and didn’t have an actual designated location,” Goffinett said. “We had to use giant burn barrels instead, which led to scorch marks in the ground, and it seemed to take the properness out of the ceremony.”
Goffinett proposed the idea to American Legion Post 229 to get the members’ approval. The next step was presenting his idea for permission at a Madison City Council meeting.
“It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be,” Goffinett said. “From getting permission to present, it was just a matter of not having stage fright. I presented my idea a few times and gave them updates, and in the end, they agreed to set aside $1,000 to finance my project.”
Building the pit took two days, and Goffinett enlisted 25 people to help get the project accomplished. The pit is built with paver sand, gravel, paver stones and a fire ring. In the end, the total cost of the project was $1,500.
“When we were building the pit, you had to do a double take every once and a while because of all the Scouts swinging pickaxes,” Goffinett said, “and in the end, we busted a sprinkler and had to patch it up real quick.”
After word got out that Goffinett had built the pit, he said his family became known as the “flag retirement people.” Scouts as well as friends and family of Scouts, along with community members, began sending them flags. They eventually collected stacks and stacks of boxes of flags. With the large number of flags to be retired, Goffinett hosted his first flag retirement ceremony, inviting the Sparkman High School Teens for Troops club members to help out. It was the first time he personally used the pit.
“I actually liked doing the ceremony with my friends. It makes me feel more relaxed than at a larger ceremony,” Goffinett said. “I think it taught them a lot about the honor and legacy of the American flag and also about the retirement ceremony itself.”
Even though it started to rain during his October ceremony, Goffinett said he did not hurry the ceremony along, reading the entire speech about the history and values of the American flag and the triumphs and hardships it has faced throughout time.
Teaching people the proper way to retire the American flag is important to Goffinett and one reason this project means so much to him.
“A lot of people actually do not know tattered flags need to be retired, and these retirement ceremonies can help teach about the ideals of the flag and what they represent,” Goffinett said. “After the speech, the largest flag is presented, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Then finally, the large flag is retired in the fire pit, followed by the rest of the flags.”
Goffinett has been a member of the Scouts since he was 6 years old. The Eagle Scout project is the last hurdle Scouts take on to get their Eagle Rank.
“After I finished all 13 Eagle Merit badges, I took on the project,” Goffinett said. “Once the fire pit was completed, I finally got my rank after 10 years of Scouts.”
Besides introducing him to the flag retirement ceremony, Goffinett credits the Scouts for intensifying his affection for giving back to the community, something he describes as improving the quality of life overall.
“Without service and volunteering, many aspects of the community that are beautiful now could fall into disarray and deteriorate, and I believe the Scouts not only maintain the beauty of the community, they go a step beyond that,” Goffinett said. “Through their Eagle Projects, they can create needed improvements that might never reached fruition if the Eagle Scouts were not there. From wheelchair ramps to flower beds, Eagle Projects improve the quality of life for many people.”
Goffinett’s Eagle Project is designed to do just that. Anyone wanting to retire flags can use the pit. They need to get permission from the American Legion Post 229 for access to the key to the pit, and they also need to inform the Madison Fire Department of the date and time of the ceremony.
“The fire pit has allowed a designated area where flag retirement ceremonies can be held for practically anyone,” Goffinett said. “It has been used by the Girl Scouts and the Knights of Columbus, and I believe it has brought people together in a good way – where we can all come together and connect with one another on some of our greatest virtues and ideas.”