By Alan Hodge
Over a year ago, Boy Scout Troop 56 member (and South Point Class of 2021 grad), Jesse Whaley of Belmont began casting his eyes around for a project to earn his Eagle Scout designation. By and by, his focus fell on the building and grounds at American Legion Post 144 near Davis Park.
Whaley observed that the Auten-Stowe American Legion Post 144 building, which dates to around 1952, was starting to look a little tired and the landscaping, such as it was, a bit scruffy. Therefore, Whaley, 18, decided to pitch in and do some fixing up on the place.
Whaley has been in scouting since first grade. His troop is based at Belmont’s First United Methodist Church.
“My dad was a scout when he was growing up,” Whaley said. “It’s a family tradition.”
Whaley said he was also prompted to take on the Post 144 project because of a desire to honor veterans.
“I wanted to give back to the veterans who defend our country,” Whaley said.
Whaley started by replacing the Post flagpole.
“I heard that Post 144 had a flag pole they needed put up so I got some friends and my father together and we did the job.”
Whaley’s friends included fellow Troop 56 members Kevin Granson and brothers Grayer and Hayes Andrews.
The flag pole was just the start of of what Whaley has done at Post 144.
Over the past months, Whaley and a group of his fellow Scouts. Friends, and relatives, have constructed a stunning veterans memorial plaza on the Post 144 front lawn.
The plaza includes a sidewalk, pentagon-shaped stone bench seating area, logos of the five branches of our military service, solar lighting, new U.S. and POW/MIAS flags for the pole, flower beds, mulch, and out front, metal silhouettes of a kneeling soldier and rifle with boots and helmet.
The entire effect is amazing and has been getting plenty of notice.
“People walk by and remark on how great it looks,” said Whaley’s mom Lisa McLean. “It’s helped draw attention to the Legion and helped get new members.”
In addition to the plaza, Whaley also did some landscaping such as planting flowers in a box right in front of the Post door and around the building.
A huge range of folks and firms either donated materials for the plaza or gave discounts on the stuff.
Contributors included Lowes, Mad Macks Industries in Dallas, Conder Flags, Plant Delight in Raleigh, A.J. Landscaping, Concrete South, and Site One.
Troop 56 scoutmaster Michael Sass helped with the stone cutting and Whaley got lessons in welding on the silhouettes from Patrick McElhone.
The work Whaley has done is greatly appreciated by Post 144 members. Commander Barry Smith had this to say.
“It looks great,” he said. “It vastly improves the curb appeal of the Post and raises its image.”
Another Post 144 member Dan Cloninger also praised Whaley.
“He put his heart and soul into the project,” Cloninger said, “Every member of the Post enjoys seeing it.”
Now that the project is done. Whaley will soon have his Eagle Scout board of review and should get the award in July.
Meanwhile, he reflected on the project and its meaning.
“I want to thank everyone who donated their time and materials to see me through to the end,” he said. “It has been an enlightening experience.”See more photos on page 9 of Banner-News June 16, 2021 Issue