SIERRA VISTA — In a community that prides itself on service, the youth of Sierra Vista have stepped up to the call, overcoming the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and providing a solution to respectfully retiring US, state, veteran and nation flags.
Sierra Vista’s Junior Girl Scout Troop 104 has devoted 11 months of their Bronze project that serves the community to properly retire these flags through their installation of flag-retirement drop boxes. The boxes allow local residents to drop off their flags and have them properly retired at the Southeastern Arizona Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery off Buffalo Soldier Trail.
The project was initiated by the troop in November 2019, when members decided to embark on a Bronze award project. According to Sharon Flissar and Janis Wheat, the co-leaders of Troop 104, the Bronze is the highest award a junior troop can earn. The leaders said the project must be global in helping the troop’s community, measurable quantitatively and qualitatively, and sustainable beyond the initial group that created it.
Flissar and Wheat emphasized that the Bronze project isn’t a mandatory endeavor. The troop researched, fundraised and designed the boxes. Then it contacted local businesses and organizations to get the boxes assembled and installed.
“The community really came forward to help us with this project ... (The troop) fully developed this project, they found the boxes they wanted, they found someone to do the decals, and they turned out great,” Flissar said.
Scout member Kennedy Fesser, 12, said the idea was proposed by fellow scout member Madeline Wallace, who had seen similar flag drop-off boxes and wanted to bring them to Sierra Vista. After a vote by the troop, it began working on the boxes.
Kamryn Gerow, 12, another troop member, said another motivation for the project was flag etiquette.
“Our inspiration was that we hated seeing flags left on the floor being disrespected,” Gerow said. “We are a military troop ... We wanted to do something about it.”
Joe Larson, administrator for the Southern Arizona Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery, said the troop’s project provides, “An added measure of respect for our nation’s flag.”
Troop 104’s flag-retirement boxes have been well received by the community. Dennis Fesser, owner of Fesser Financial and Kennedy’s father, said 50 to 60 flags from the troop’s box at the Sierra Vista ACE Hardware have been picked up. ACE Hardware Operations Manager Sara Arsenault said she frequently contacts the troop to have the box emptied and that the customers have responded positively to having the box inside the store.
“The box is easy for our customers to see. We’re happy to work with (Troop 104) to get these flags retired,” Arsenault said. Larson said visitors at the Southern Arizona Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery have been “very receptive” to the troop’s flag-retirement boxes.
Flissar said this project has not only benefited the community but has benefited the girls by providing them opportunities to exercise their skills in communication, research and budgeting.
“Other people are going to respect those skills in them, and they really learn to just use their voice and they carry on that skill, regardless if they continue with the troop,” Flisser said. “The feeling of accomplishment you see in them is wonderful.”
Wheat detailed the process for installing boxes at the Veterans of Foriegn Wars (VFW), ACE Hardware and the Southern Arizona Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery.
“The girls researched the cost, made a briefing, rehearsed, and they made a presentation to the joint service club,” she said. “The donations (they received) exceeded their budget, so they were able to get three boxes. All the organizations has their names on the side of the box.”
The troop was supposed to receive their Bronze award during The Girls of Distinction event, which was set to take place on April 25. However, due to the pandemic, the event was canceled.
During the lockdown period in mid-March, Flissare said the troop had to adjust to teleworking and submitting its final report electronically to the council for review.
“Everyone has had to deal with that situation individually, too,” Flissar said. “It’s a very personalized issue, they had to be respectful to everyone limits in that regard.”
On Tuesday, a small ceremony was held at Wheat’s home for the troop to present its Bronze project. After delivering its final presentation to board members Jennie Lovorn, Susan Veney-Malcou and Donna Jackson, the troop finally received the bronze award.
After receiving her award, Fesser said, “It’s very nice having all that weight lifted off our shoulders after all the work we’ve done.”
Gerow mirrored Fesser’s gratitude: “I feel really proud of myself and just so excited that I’ve helped my community in this way.”