Gunning for Eagle Scout

SMYRNA — T.J. Hardesty didn’t have to think twice about what community project he would undertake in his quest to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest level a member of the Boy Scouts of America can attain.

His family has always had military in its blood, so it was only natural that he take up a cause for veterans.

The 13-year-old spent Saturday morning on the grounds of the David C. Harrison American Legion Post 14 in Smyrna, working alongside a team he had assembled to restore the World War I and World War II artillery guns in front of the building. His project also involved repairing and replacing the posts, lighting and gravel surrounding the historical artifacts.

“I feel it’s important to remember our history and it makes our veterans in the community proud to drive by the American Legion to see these artillery pieces,” Hardesty said. “I thought it would be pretty cool and just a really good project because if you look at them they’re pretty old and it’s been a while since anyone has even touched them, so I figured it would be a good thing to do.”

Hardesty is closing in on a big goal at a young age – Eagle Scout. After all, since its inception in 1911, only four percent of Boy Scouts – more than 2.5 million youth – have earned this rank after a lengthy review process. “It’s actually pretty rare,” he said. “They said that they’d be looking extra deep into what I do because of how young I am.”

In order to become an Eagle Scout, one must earn at least 21 merit badges, 13 of which are required for Eagle; perform a minimum of 6 months as a Life Scout; and complete a leadership community service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads and manages.

Hardesty, an eighth grader from Smyrna Middle School, had organized plenty of help to lend their expertise in his project on Saturday, including volunteers from Anderson Landscaping, incoming and outgoing American Legion commanders, Boy Scouts from Troop 76 and other people in the community.

T.J. Hardesty

Hardesty also noted that several vendors donated supplies and money to the American Legion as well, such as Smash and Crash Properties, Smyrna Hardware, Taste of New York and Your Style Salon, among others.

Smyrna’s Ed Reuben, who was a former Assistant Scout Master from another troop with Hardesty, wasn’t surprised at the teenager’s ambition.

“It’s going to be a real nice project,” Mr. Reuben said. “It’s something that needs to be done and they’ve done an excellent timing with Memorial Day coming up. He’s been one of the most motivated kids I’ve seen in a long while. I’ll give him stuff to do and in two or three weeks he’ll have it done and I’ll sign it off. He’s moved up quick.

“Boy Scouts usually get to their early teens and they start slowing down.”
Aimee Hardesty, T.J.’s mother, was beaming with pride as she arrived at the American Legion with a little bit of breakfast in her hands before the real heavy lifting got underway.

“I think this is an amazing project for a 13-year-old to be undertaking,” Mrs. Hardesty said. “He had to do a lot of letters, a lot of footwork and there was a lot involved. I’m very, very proud. It’s amazing at his age, it really is. He’s very persistent.

“Both sides of the family have been involved in the military from our great grandfather all the way to us. It’s actually a tradition in our family to have one person from each family go (join the military). So, I went and he’s going.”

T.J. Hardesty, who has always been an Honor Roll student, is also involved in the Junior Police Academy and was accepted for the State Military Academy, also.

“I come from a military background,” he said. “My whole family is military, and it goes far back. I’m just pretty interested in it and what they do.

“I want to join the military eventually, either the Marine Corps or the Army, because my family is in the Army, (though) I’ve looked into the Marine Corps a lot because I see what they do and it’s pretty cool.”

While he was getting everything organized for his community project in Smyrna on Saturday, his friends in Troop 76 were across the street at the Glenwood Cemetery placing American flags on the graves of veterans in preparation for Memorial Day on Monday.

“It makes me proud to be in an area who really care about our veterans and remember them not only on Memorial Day, but every day of the week as well,” Hardesty said.

Tim Dziubinsky, of Smyrna, knows what his friend is going through as he tries to become an Eagle Scout. He became an Eagle Scout himself last year at the age of 15.

“When (T.J. Hardesty) came to my Eagle Scout project he was a really hard worker,” he said. “So, since I’m an Eagle Scout, he came over to my house (Friday) and I went over his proposal for this project and I helped him out with that and now I’m coming to help him out with basically whatever he needs. He’s pretty motivated and I think he’s a pretty hard worker.”

When not involved with scouting or school, Hardesty enjoys playing sports, particularly football, which he calls his favorite.

But he is truly in his element when he is out getting involved with the community.

“I just really enjoy the satisfaction of doing a good thing for other people without receiving any reward after,” Hardesty said. “Their thanks are what matter the most to me.”

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