Like all Boy Scouts, former River Forest resident and River Forest Troop 65 member John Lappe respects the American flag and what it stands for. Make that “Eagle Scout.” On July 29, Lappe officially became his troop’s 12th member to attain Eagle Scout status.

Two years ago, Lappe decided he wanted to ensure that people had a place to take the stars and stripes for proper disposal once it became too faded or ragged to display. The idea for the “Unserviceable American Flag Deposit Box” came when Lappe’s family moved to Hinsdale. In 2006 he spotted a flag depository outside the Hinsdale Public Library, and decided to create one for River Forest as his final Eagle Scout badge project.

The idea turned out to be a bigger challenge than he ever expected.

“It was pretty tough to get a [used] mailbox,” Lappe said. “I thought it would take just a couple of phone calls.” Due to tightened post-911 security standards, however, the U.S. Postal Service no longer allows old mail boxes to be given away or sold. The couple of phone calls stretched out over nearly a year of searching.

“We finally got it from a recycler in Georgia,” he noted. The steel box was free, though shipping cost about $500.

Lappe’s colleagues in Boy Scout Troop 65 repainted the box, and River Forest Public Works staff bolted it into the concrete next to the real mail box outside village hall at 400 Park Ave.

Troop 65 dedicated the box in a ceremony Saturday afternoon. By then, the depository had already seen steady use for about a month.

“I was surprised by the response,” Lappe said, “We had about 40 flags.” Not all of which saw the fire.

“Three had 48 stars, and we saved those for the historical society. One looked to be brand new, so we saved that to use as a color guard.”

The rest were properly disposed of last week in a ceremony at Camp Owasippe up in Twin Lakes, Mich. Ironically, the proper way to dispose of old American flags is to burn them-not as some sort of political statement, but with respect for what the flag stands for.

“You have to have it folded and place it in a fire.” The only other requirement is that the burn be thorough and that the flag no longer be recognizable as a flag.

“Then it’s just charcoal,” Lappe said.

Standing before some 20 family members and friends Saturday afternoon in the village hall community room, Lappe gave a brief overview of his project, then was rewarded with praise from his scoutmaster, Michael Harkins; Twin Lakes District Advancement Chairman John Dzuryak; and his dad, John Sr.

Harkins noted Lappe’s project took the input and assistance of numerous individuals, “but it took one who provided the great leadership… the newest Eagle Scout in Troop 65.”

“During his board of review to become an Eagle Scout … Johnny said the flag was really important to him,” Dzuryak noted. “I don’t recall ever hearing another 18-year-old speak so admirably about the flag.”

“What can you say, he’s been a great scout, a great son and a great contributor to the community,” noted his dad.

There was one final small reward. Outside after the depository unveiling, Lappe thanked his audience for coming and invited his guests back inside for a reception.

“I believe my mom baked brownies,” he said with a smile.

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