Newly-pinned Eagle Scout unveils veteran memorial plaque in Aspen
“It is said that if their names are spoken, they are not forgotten. Now their names will be forever memorialized here at the Veterans Memorial Park so that they are honored and remembered every day,” the Eagle Scout said in his opening speech.
Sheldon Gentry, 13, hears the listed names of the Roaring Fork Valley’s fallen soldiers at least twice yearly. His grandpa, retired Marine Lt. Col. Dick Merritt, has brought Gentry along to veterans events since before he could remember.
On Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park in Aspen, Gentry unveiled his Eagle Scout project — a memorial plaque with 15 names of the valley’s soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in conflicts ranging from World War I until today. When he started thinking about what to do for the project, Gentry knew he wanted to honor veterans.
“I will always remember that they always said the names of the fallen soldiers who died in the war. And I always thought that was like a big part of it. So I decided that I should do a plaque with their names on it,” he said. “It’s important to have them remembered every day of the year … because they fought for the country and died in battle for the country. And that was really important.”
He started working on the project nearly six months ago and secured funding from the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners, the Aspen Elks Lodge and the city of Aspen.
During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Merritt, or “Grandpa” to Gentry, passed his own 71-year-old Eagle Scout pin to his grandson.
“He’s helped me since I was like 6 years old with doing requirements and helping me get merit badges and learning about different stuff. And making me a part of ceremonies like Veterans Day Memorial Day ceremonies,” Gentry said. “It’s just special that he’s going to be able to give me the Eagle Scout pin that he had when he earned his Eagle Scout.”
Merritt never missed a Scout meeting and Gentry said that getting his grandpa’s Eagle Scout is very special to him.
Members of the valley’s tight-knit veteran community attended in support of the memorial plaque project and of the family that has meant so much to them all.
“Sheldon just really has always grown up around our wonderful veteran community. And I just think that this is so special,” said Heather Gentry, Sheldon’s mom. “Not only fully supportive, but they’re just really excited to have this addition to the park because it’s so meaningful.”
Gentry said that the next adventure for him will be to pursue the Boy Scouts of America Venturing program, which he can begin at age 14.