MONROE – When Gaston Outen’s dad encouraged him to earn his Eagle Scout rank before receiving his driver’s license, the 13-year-old took the challenge to the next level – beating the deadline by nearly three years.
Gaston, a member of Boy Scout Troop 316, was recently recognized in an Eagle Scout Court of Honor for earning his Eagle rank through a project benefitting the Sam F. Keziah Unionville American Legion Post 535. The post chartered Troop 316.
Gaston’s project installed a flagpole to mark the Legion post’s future site – next to Benton’s Crossroads Baptist Church, where his Troop 316 meets. In addition, the project cleared the property around the flagpole, which will eventually house a “hut” facility for the post, Gaston said.
Gaston joined Cub Scouts in first grade at the urging of his parents. He quickly discovered he enjoyed the activities Scouts offered and decided to stick with the program – something he believes had a positive impact on his life.
“It kept my head on straight, kept me from acting up in school,” Gaston said. “It helped me be more independent.”
When Gaston’s dad challenged him to earn his Eagle rank before obtaining his driver’s license, Gaston started working diligently to earn merit badges and complete other prerequisite requirements.
“Those first couple of years, I was flying through, so I think it helped,” Gaston said.
Soon the time came for Gaston to start working on his Eagle project. He learned the American Legion Post 535 was planning to install a flagpole at the site adjacent to Benton’s Crossroads, and he decided to commit his project to helping the post meet its need.
“I thought it was pretty cool; it showed patriotism,” he said.
The planning phase alone took nearly a year to complete, Gaston said. He had to complete “a lot of paperwork” – including writing the details of his plan – and his proposal had to be approved by both a group of Scout leaders and the Legion.
Gaston started working on the project once he was given the green light, gathering materials needed to build the flagpole including sand, bricks, the pole and an electrical box, which will allow the flag to remain lit at night. He was able to obtain most of the materials through donations.
“All I had to pay for was the sand we had to put under the bricks,” he said. “Fortunately … I got hooked up with a bunch of people who donated stuff.”
The actual project took about a week to complete, Gaston said. Friends, family members and fellow Scouts helped during the workdays, which took place over the summer. Tasks included digging the hole, cutting the base of the pole, pouring concrete and laying brick around the pole.
In addition, Gaston and his volunteers cleared the property near the pole to allow for the building of a “hut” for the Legion. They used a bulldozer to clear the trees and burned the stumps, which took about three days.
Gaston said his favorite part of the project was when it was finally time to raise the flag.
“I thought it was really cool when we finally got out there and rose it up, seeing all I accomplished and how all of the work I’d done paid off,” he said.
Now that he’s earned his Eagle rank, Gaston plans to continue with the extracurricular activities he enjoys – football, wrestling and shooting sports. He also wants to join ROTC in high school, as well as continue with Boy Scouts as a leader and work toward earning Eagle Palms – additional awards given to Scouts who’ve already earned the rank of Eagle.
“The (Scout) leaders have already told me they see me as a leader now,” Gaston said.
Gaston eventually plans to attend college – possibly North Carolina State University – to study automotive or mechanical engineering.
“Scouting helps with creativity and helps you think outside the box, so I think it would help especially with engineering because they need those types of people (as engineers),” he