TJ Hardesty, 13, organized volunteers including Scouts from Troop 76 and secured donations of materials to repaint the artillery guns in front of American Legion Post 14 in Smyrna, provide new landscaping and lights around the guns, and spruce up the landscaping around a bench nearby.

TJ Hardesty chose his Eagle Scout service project because of a proud history of military service in his family and his troop’s connection to a Smyrna veterans organization.

The 13-year-old organized volunteers including Scouts from Troop 76 and secured donations of materials to repaint the artillery guns in front of American Legion Post 14 in Smyrna, provide new landscaping and lights around the guns, and spruce up the landscaping around a bench nearby.

“My family has served in the Army, Navy and Marines. It dates back to my great-grandfathers of both sides of the family,” said Hardesty. “I picked the American Legion because they are our sponsor for Boy Scout Troop 76.”

He asked the commander of the American Legion about sprucing up the guns and the landscaping around them for his Eagle Scout project. After an enthusiastic “yes,” he started organizing a plan in November and presented it to the American Legion committee, his Scoutmaster and the Scouting Council representative.

“I had to estimate what supplies I needed, take measurements of the area and go shopping at different places to get an idea of the cost of all the supplies,” Hardesty said. “I had to go to different local vendors to present my ideas and what I wanted to accomplish to see if they were willing to donate materials and supplies.”

A crew from Anderson Landscaping donated their time, and several businesses contributed the project including Smash and Crash Properties, Smyrna Community Hardware, Taste of New York, and Your Style Salon.

Scoutmaster Riz Batman said, “I thought that this was a pretty large undertaking for someone his age, but as he was coming up with his plans, I was pleasantly surprised he was able to get it done so quickly, and he did a great job.”

He said the veterans are all very appreciative of what Hardesty has done.

“They let us have our meetings at their Post. The least we can do is help them with a project like this,” said Batman. “I can’t say enough about our veterans. They’ve done so much for our country and for Scouts. Being able to help them – it’s great.”

The project and the results

On May 25, Hardesty, Scouts and volunteers carried out the old gravel around the guns and reused it behind the building by the dumpster as requested by the American Legion. They tore out the old lumber that was bordering the landscaping and took down the old floodlights.

They power-washed the white posts, installed the lumber for the new border, put down weed-barrier fabric, added new gravel, painted both artillery weapons and installed new flood lights.

That project led to another improvement idea.

“I realized how bad the area by the stone bench and tree looked, so me and the guys weeded and edged around the bench and then added gravel to that area and under the tree,” said Hardesty. “We also cut down some of the limbs that were hanging down too low.”

Hardesty said several veterans gave guidance and support to the Scouts during their work.

“I teared up when one veteran in a wheelchair came up to thank us for what we were doing,” said Hardesty. “I think everyone was astounded that we finished it all in one day with the amount of work and detail that went into the project.”

He said he’s glad about “how it made everyone in the community feel looking at the changes that took place.”

His Scoutmaster said the results are “phenomenal.”

“The guns look almost brand new,” Batman said. “Everyone who pitched in did a great job. We’re all proud of TJ and his project management. Hopefully this will inspire the rest of my Scouts.”

Post 14 Past Commander Vincent DiDonato was the commander when Hardesty proposed his Eagle project. He said the Legion members are impressed with what the Scout has done.

“He got the landscaper and the painter. He gave the American Legion the estimates for the materials and got a lot of donations, and he organized the Scouts and the volunteers to do the work. He’s a very driven young man,” said DiDonato.

What does he think about the results?

“It all looks fantastic,” DiDonato said. “They did a heck of job. Everybody loves it. The guns look great – Navy gray and Army green.”

Young Eagle candidate

While Scouts have until their 18th birthday to complete the requirements for Eagle, the highest rank in Scouts, Hardesty is nearly finished at age 13.

“My leaders, family, and my mentor Timothy Duziubinsky were the ones who really kept me motivated and pushed me to want to make Eagle at a young age,” he said.

His Scoutmaster agreed with DiDonato that Hardesty is “very driven.”

“He had great foresight about what he needed to do to plan and coordinate everything with his Eagle project,” said Batman. “I think he’s learned a lot from his parents.”

Hardesty said he’s proud of his family, troop and all the volunteers who made the project possible.

“I really appreciate how many people in the community stood behind me and made this idea become a reality,” he said. “I think it’s important to not only remember all the people who served our military on Memorial Day, but every day of the year.”