Matthew Belmont displays his new box for retired American flags at the West Concord fire station. Courtesy photo

Eagle Scout’s labor helps Concordians retire U.S. flags with dignity 

July 3, 2024

By Luke McCrory — Correspondent

Every Independence Day, Concord is awash in American flags. But when those flags become worn, where to dispose of them respectfully?

For quite some time, the Concord Fire Department has been inundated with tattered American flags waiting to be ceremoniously retired. Now, thanks to an Eagle Scout’s dedication, flags can be elegantly collected before retirement.

Recent CCHS graduate Matthew Belmont’s bright handmade boxes sit inside both Concord fire stations, ready to receive star-spangled banners that have done their duty. 

“I was specifically drawn to it because my dad [is] in the Army. With myself going to the Army soon, I saw the importance of properly retiring the American flag,” Belmont said. “It felt like the right project for me.”

Belmont has been part of Troop 132, the local Boy Scouts of America chapter, since moving to Concord ahead of seventh grade. But that was far from his first foray into Scouting, and he calls his project “a representation of how Scouting has been a huge part of my life.” 

He joined Cub Scouts when he was seven, and “my dad, grandfather, uncle, and two of my cousins are all Eagle Scouts, so it’s in the family,” he said. “But outside of the personal part, [the project is] a good ending to a long time in Scouting for me.”

Belmont got the project plan approved in February but only got all the sign-offs he needed a few weeks ago. “I had to get signatures [from] Walter Latta, the assistant fire chief; my scoutmaster, Bill Duggan; Mark Rzepczynski, my project advisor; and a representative of the Boy Scouts of America Council.” 

“It took a while,” he said. 

First, though, he had to figure out how to pay for the project. 

Flag retirement funds

Family members chipped in, and Belmont gave a shoutout to Concord Lumber “because they donated around $500 of supplies to the project, which was massive.”

He also used a GoFundMe to raise more than $500 “from folks around town, family, and friends who were able to donate online,” he said.

Matthew Belmont poses inside West Concord’s fire station with his second box. Courtesy photo

With the materials financed, work on the shiny, patriotism-themed boxes began. 

“Everyone at the fire station was a big help. My parents helped with all the planning and prep. My two grandfathers, both of whom are engineers, were also there to help out. It was all a collective effort,” he said.

An inscription atop the red, white, and blue repository inside the fire station reads, in part, “Properly retiring the American flag is crucial to maintaining its symbolic significance and honoring the nation’s history and principles.”

With the project complete, Belmont is proud of what he’s accomplished.

“I loved doing a project with visual reassurance that I did a good job. It makes me very happy to see it,” he said.  

Each November, a year’s worth of flags are collected and retired. In a collaboration between the town, Troop 132, and the Fire Department, the flags are placed on a fire early on Veterans Day morning.  

Scouting out his next move

With an Army ROTC scholarship in hand, Belmont will attend Worcester Polytechnic Institute for Mechanical Engineering this fall, confident that his Scouting skills will boost his prospects. 

“I definitely see myself being a stronger leader than some of my peers going into college because of my leadership experience from Scouting. To get the rank of Eagle, it’s well over a year of leadership training that you have to do,” he said. 

“Those skills will be reflected in any officership position that I might take. I’m really excited to see how that turns out.”

Meanwhile, he hopes more Concord flags will find a suitable end to their service.

“Throughout the project, I’ve seen a lot of folks around town who have American flags that are very tattered and are still being flown,” he said. 

“I hope that seeing the boxes might pique their interest in the importance of respectfully retiring a flag.”